Offsetting of CO₂ emissions by air capture in mine tailings at the Mount Keith Nickel Mine, Western Australia: Rates, controls and prospects for carbon neutral mining
Wilson, S. A., Harrison, A. L., Dipple, G. M., Power, I. M., Barker, S. L. L., Ulrich Mayer, K., … Southam, G. (2014). Offsetting of CO₂ emissions by air capture in mine tailings at the Mount Keith Nickel Mine, Western Australia: Rates, controls and prospects for carbon neutral mining. International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, 25, 121–140. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijggc.2014.04.002
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8967
The hydrated Mg-carbonate mineral, hydromagnesite [Mg₅(CO₃)₄(OH)₂•4H₂O], precipitates within mine tailings at the Mount Keith Nickel Mine, Western Australia as a direct result of mining operations. We have used quantitative mineralogical data and δ¹³C, δ¹⁸O and F¹⁴C isotopic data to quantify the amount of CO₂fixation and identify carbon sources. Our radiocarbon results indicate that at least 80% of carbon stored in hydromagnesite has been captured from the modern atmosphere. Stable isotopic results indicate that dissolution of atmospheric CO₂ into mine tailings water is kinetically limited, which suggests that the current rate of carbon mineralization could be accelerated. Reactive transport modeling is used to describe the observed variation in tailings mineralogy and to estimate rates of CO₂ fixation. Based on our assessment, approximately 39,800 t/yr of atmospheric CO₂ are being trapped and stored in tailings at Mount Keith. This represents an offsetting of approximately 11% of the mine's annual greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, passive sequestration via enhanced weathering of mineral waste can capture and store a significant amount of CO₂. Recommendations are made for changes to tailings management and ore processing practices that have potential to accelerate carbonation of tailings and further reduce or completely offset the net greenhouse gas emissions at Mount Keith and many other mines.