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Townsville Energy Chemicals Hub proponents have entered a memorandum of understanding with James Cook University for work hoped to see the project become world’s first ‘zero waste’ nickel /cobalt production facility.

Pure Minerals subsidiary Queensland Pacific Metals said the initial focus of the research program would be the leach residue produced at the planned battery chemicals plant.

The processing option being used for the TECH project was more sustainable than the traditional high pressure acid leach (HPAL) as it resulted in a much lower amount of residue, it said.

Another advantage is that the benign residue can be dry stacked, eliminating the need for the risky and costly tailings dams required for HPAL plants.

The research with JCU will look at the characteristics of residue from the TECH plant and the potential to convert to into commercial applications such as engineered landfill, pavers and cement feed.

“If the TECH porject was able to redirect its small amount of inert residue to commercial application, it would deliver an additional revenue stream,” Pure Minerals said in a release to the ASX.

“More importantly the TECH project would effectively become the world’s first ‘zero waste’ nickel /cobalt production facility.

“This step change would be attractive to the end users of battery chemicals, international conglomerates who are focused on ensuring that their raw materials are responsibly sourced, both from an environmental and social perspective.”

The company also reported that its collaboration on directing TECH byproducts to a joint iron product with Sun Metals zinc refinery was delivering encouraging results.

QPM and Sun Metals have appointed Drytech International Holdings to carry out preliminary agglomeration trials on iron samples.

TECH looks to ‘zero waste’ outcome for NQ plant

Initial trials have demonstrated successful agglomeration of the iron fines into pellets, creating a saleable product as blast furnace feed for steel making.

Meanwhile Hatch has been appointed to the QPM owner’s team for pilot plant trials to be carried out at the ALS Global Hydrometallurgy Centre of Excellence in Perth.

QPM says the involvement of Hatch is a stepping stone to commencing a bankable feasibility study for the TECH project.