De Beers is studying how to eliminate the carbon footprint of diamond mining by storing the emissions inside kimberlite, it said Wednesday.
The miner recently received a government grant of CAD 675,000 ($514,000) to test the process at its Gahcho Kué mine in Canada, having carried out successful laboratory experiments. The project involves injecting carbon dioxide into processed kimberlite rock to accelerate “mineral carbonation,” in which the greenhouse gas reacts with metal oxides to form a stable and benign substance.
The storage capability of kimberlites is so large that it would require only 10% of the rock’s storage potential to capture the carbon-dioxide emissions of a whole mine, De Beers explained. “There is great potential to achieve carbon-neutral mining operations at sites where this type of rock is present,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver.
The cash award from Natural Resources Canada’s Clean Growth Program will enable De Beers to study whether the process can work in large-scale field demonstrations at Gahcho Kué, which De Beers co-owns with Mountain Province. De Beers also plans to perform tests at its Botswana operations to assess differences between various climates and geological settings. The University of British Columbia (UBC), Trent University, the University of Alberta, and the Quebec-based National Institute of Scientific Research are working with the company on the project.
“We’ve demonstrated rapid carbon fixation within days to weeks in the lab, but the challenge is to reproduce this success at large volumes,” said Greg Dipple, project lead and professor at Bradshaw Research Initiative for Minerals and Mining (BRIMM) at UBC.
“[The grant] will help us accelerate this innovative work that could fundamentally change the carbon footprint of not only the diamond industry, but the mining sector more broadly,” Cleaver added.
Image: The Gahcho Kué mine. (Mountain Province)