Exploration group says Timmins could become new nickel mining capital of Ontario

Exploration company Canada Nickel is developing its Crawford Nickel Cobalt Sulphide Project– a significant nickel deposit north of Timmins, and officials with the company say they’re committed to extracting and processing it in an environmentally friendly way.
Canada Nickel is developing its Crawford Nickel Cobalt Sulphide Project– a significant nickel deposit north of Timmins (Pierre-Mathieu Tremblay/Radio-Canada)

There could be a bright future in nickel for the city that has been known for its heart of gold.

Exploration company Canada Nickel is developing its Crawford Nickel Cobalt Sulphide Project, a significant nickel deposit north of Timmins, and officials with the company say they're committed to extracting and processing the mineral in an environmentally-friendly way.

A subsidiary called NetZero Metals, will be researching ways to start a processing facility that would produce zero-carbon nickel, cobalt and iron. 

Mark Selby, Canada Nickel's CEO, said he's optimistic about Timmins' future.

"We've got the real potential to turn Timmins into a significant nickel district. And become, we hope, one of the largest nickel sulfide operating regions in the world," Selby said.

Pushing the market forward is an increase in demand for electric vehicles– and their nickel-reliant batteries– as well as strong growth in the stainless steel market.

But what makes the Crawford Nickel Cobalt Sulphide Project unique is what Selby calls its "net zero" approach.

"One, our waste rock and tailings naturally absorbs CO2 when exposed to air," he said. "The second thing is all the electricity in that region is all hydro electric based which is obviously zero carbon. And the third reason is Timmins an area that is supportive of down stream processing."

"So there's the potential to be able to have processing plants located near the mine site and be able to capture the gases from those plants...with the tailings and waste rock to absorb that CO2," he said.

That's a far cry from other countries like Indonesia, that produce significant amounts of nickel but uses less environmentally friendly coal-powered electricity.

Demand for electric vehicles might mean a boost for the nickel market. Shown here is the Tesla Cybertruck, Elon Musk's latest electric vehicle. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/The Associated Press)

Selby adds that delivering the zero waste final product is also the "right thing to do."

"We think the electric vehicle market is going to be extremely keen to get that type of material."

Nickel could be ready to be produced by the middle of the decade, Selby said, as their preliminary economic assessment is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

Following that, the company moves into a feasibility study, which will allow them to get construction financing. All told, Selby said the project would be considered a "large scale" operation.

"It's similar to what Detour Gold would be doing or IAMGOLD is doing," Selby said. "So it's about a two-year construction to build the project. And when you build in the permitting timelines, we'd be looking to operate sometime in the 2024-2025 time period."

"It's still early days with our project," he added. "But we think we're on the path to something that'll actually produce more nickel than Sudbury on an annual basis." 



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