BacTech Environmental Corporation has issued an update on its proposed pyrrhotite bioleach R&D project in Sudbury, Canada. As previously reported, BacTech is part of a consortium aiming to provide innovative solutions for remediating 80-100 million tonnes of pyrrhotite tailings deposited in and around Sudbury. Pyrrhotite ("Po") is a highly reactive iron sulfide mineral that reacts strongly when exposed to oxygen, releasing soluble acidic iron harmful to the environment.

Historically, predecessor companies such as INCO and Falconbridge separated pyrrhotite from the more valuable nickel cobalt pentlandite, depositing resulting pyrrhotite waste either underwater or under caps/covers to prevent oxidation. Despite being contained, natural bacteria can cause some degradation over the years. Currently, Vale and Glencore, continue managing these tailings to reduce their long-term liabilities.

Dr. Nadia Mykytczuk, President and CEO of Mirarco, a leader in innovative solutions for the mining industry, confirmed that the continuous laboratory-scale bioleach pilot plant is undergoing pre-testing of equipment. This will lead to BacTech's technology being tested on a few kilograms a day basis starting in January 2024, with the program estimated to run approximately 6 months. Techno-Economic Feasibility Testing.

The objective of the overall test is to determine if bioleaching can not only break down pyrrhotite to liberate small amounts of cobalt and nickel values as project revenue streams but also if other by-products from bioleach can be manipulated into intermediary products of value, creating additional revenue streams. Technically, the results will be crucial for BacTech in securing patent protection for this innovative process, representing the next step in advancing the provisional patent application already in place. Commercially, the results are vital for designing a fully integrated demonstration plant using commercial-scale equipment, proving the technoeconomics of the entire process and producing tonnage quantities of products for end-user testing. This would lead to the construction of a full-scale prototype production facility.

Readying Proven Tech for Today's Economy. Over 20 years ago, BacTech conducted a pilot project in Australia (Radio Hill Mine), successfully bioleaching pyrrhotite to recover nickel and cobalt into a saleable mixed precipitate. However, economic viability was hindered by the need to dispose of benign waste from the bioleach process.

Fast forward to the present, the total flowsheet concept has been redesigned, focusing on managing benign waste streams as a key process driver to enhance profitability. The combination of reducing the need for benign waste disposal facilities and diversifying revenue streams benefits project economics. Proven technologies can integrate with conventional bioleach processes to create saleable intermediary products from waste streams, reigniting research in this area.

At today's nickel prices, the tails contain approximately $15 billion alone. These could be precipitated for sale, as demonstrated from BacTech's piloting experience in processing Radio Hill material in Australia. Finally, the clean siliceous waste from processing, making up about 15% of the original feed, can be used to produce construction materials using innovative proven geopolymer technology.

Success factors for this program include co-production of metals and materials, demonstration of environmentally benign processing, and competitive economics in today's evolving market. BacTech anticipates providing results on an ongoing basis over the 6-month test program.