GREEN NICKEL MINING AND PROCESSING A NEW CONCEPT _________________________________________________ From the onset, Intex had decided to create a project where the utilization of all components in the process was given attention: from handling of raw materials to end-products and including consumables, energy, by-products and waste materials.... Read more
FULL UTILIZATION OF A NICKEL DEPOSIT WITH NO HIGH GRADE _________________________________________________ The Feasibility Study has provided Mindoro Nickel with an operation, which may not only become the world’s first carbon- neutral mining operation but also such low operational costs that the economic break-even grade of the ore is well below the geological minimum grade of the (natural) resources.... Read more

THE MINDORO NICKEL PROJECT

Mindoro Nickel, located on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines, is today considered one of the Philippines government’s priority mineral project. The approximately 113km 2 concession area (11,315 ha) is located about 30km from the coast in the central part of Mindoro. Extensive nickel (Ni)-laterite mineralization was formed by the accumulation of nickel and cobalt (Co) in the tropical soils of the island through intensive chemical weathering of ultramafics source rocks in late Tertiary to recent time.

 

 

Industrial development

The discovery of a large nickel deposit in Mindoro has brought about a new and unexpected opportunity for development of the island’s economy, which so far has been dependent on traditional farming and fishing.

While the development of a large industrial project can bring much-needed boost to the local economy, it also generates concern among the island’s predominantly rural population, regarding the possible consequences to their traditional trades and livelihood. Unlike most other parts of the Philippines, Mindoro has no history of mining, and a natural resource development project of the magnitude envisaged by Intex is naturally viewed with some scepticism. The company is sensitive to these concerns and is conducting a thorough information and education campaign to explain the operation and is arranging public meetings to listen to local concerns and wishes.

The project will provide direct employment opportunities for more than 2,000 people and many more by the multiplier effect. The project will also ultimately provide 110 MW of CO2-free electrical power as a by-product from its acid generation plant, required for the pressure leach processing of the laterite ore. The basic guiding principle for Intex’s plans is that land use activities will be temporary and that land used will be returned in a better and more valuable state after operation than it was before , creating sustainable benefits for the local population.

 

Indigenous people and local communities

While there is no permanent infrastructure and only very few settlements in the license area, it is part of the indigenous Mangyan ancestral lands and about 200 families currently utilize the area in their traditional nomadic lifestyle. The company has continuously conducted consultations and established a close relationship with the tribal leaders of these communities. During exploration drilling, Mangyans are employed on an equal- opportunity basis with other locals, and often in a rotation system to give a maximum number of laborers’ the opportunity to benefit from this engagement.

Community support programs are also provided for the Mangyan communities, including installations for safe drinking water, improved sanitary systems and free medical services.

Support programs are required by law and developed in cooperation with the local communities. The initial initiatives have already led to significant reductions in serious disease incidence, particularly among children and the elderly. The company is also arranging for more children to receive education, from elementary through high school, to college grants. In addition, our agro and forestry technicians assist individual Mangyan farmers and communities in improving farming and forestry practices.

In non-Mangyan villages adjacent to the licence area, safe water has now been installed in most households, distributed by gravity from spring sources through a system of interconnected cement tanks. Medical services are being provided from a small clinic and from an ambulance unit, which can reach more remote locations.

The company has also initiated a program for mitigation of the sometimes severe damages caused by the recurring flooding in low-lying areas of the island.

 

The future

The nickel project has become a major, environmentally friendly development opportunity to Mindoro because of new technology, which allows naturally occurring laterite soils to be used as a principal source for metals like nickel and cobalt. The project has a very long time line and may, when implemented, operate for well over 50 years.

Experience from operations elsewhere, where the value-added processing is conducted on site, shows that substantial amounts of the generated value will be retained locally, through corporate and individual taxes, accompanying business activities, new opportunities, spin offs, employment multipliers and the generally increased living standard.

 

The nickel deposit

The nickel deposit occurs in laterite, a10-30 m thick weathering horizon overlying barren ultramafic bedrock. Two distinct sub-horizontal layers make up the laterite: ‘limonite’ ore and saprolite ore. Limonite is the reddish, iron-rich soil type that forms the uppermost 4-10 m and represents the most intensely weathered part of the laterite. The limonite is enriched in Ni and Co and can be successfully processed by high-pressure acid leach (HPAL) technology because of its low magnesium content.

Saprolite ore underlies the limonite horizon, and consist of less intensely weathered fragments and boulders of bedrock. It typically has a yellowish to greenish colour. Saprolite often has higher Ni grades than the limonite. A high magnesium content makes it better suited for other processing techniques. The saprolite can also be used to neutralize residual acid solutions in a limonite HPAL process, whereby additional Ni and Co is added to the pregnant liquor.

 

Mining

The mining operation will be surface excavations from a predetermined mine block of about 50 ha. Projected production rates will require mining of approximately two blocks per year, which will be fully rehabilitated and replanted immediately after mining of each block has been completed. This means that mining will affect an area of approximately 100 ha per year. After mining the terrain will be reshaped and the topsoil returned for immediate replanting. Slopes and loose topsoil will be protected from soil erosion and landslides by so-called coco-fiber mats. After 2-4 years the terrain will be fully re-vegetated and gradually restored after its temporary use for the mine operation.

 

Processing

The process plant design is based on well-proven HPAL technology (“High-Pressure Acid Leach”), a processing method which has been operated at Moa Bay in Cuba for over 40 years and was also selected by Sumitomo for its Coral Bay Ni-plant in the Philippines and more recently, for the Ambatovy project in Madagascar and the Ramu nickel project in PNG.

 

Economics

The Definitive Feasibility Study delivered by Aker Solutions in February 2010 suggests a capital cost of USD 2.455 billion, and an operating cost of USD 2.11 per pound of nickel before credits. After credits for by- products an operating cost of USD 0.56 per pound of nickel is estimated.

 

Intex Resources Philippines Inc. 2014