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Twin Metals project: low carbon

by Tom Coombe

Amid growing concern about the potential impacts of climate change, a life cycle assessment report out this month says the Twin Metals Minnesota copper-nickel mining project will be a low-carbon producer of the critical minerals needed to combat it.

Conducted by Minviro ltd, the analysis found that the carbon impact of Twin Metals’ copper and nickel concentrates will be 70 and 80 percent lower than the global average respectively, due in large part to the company’s plans to use renewable energy, incorporate an electric fleet and employ additional efficiency measures.

“This life cycle assessment report reflects our commitment to the fight against climate change by both delivering the raw materials needed for our clean energy future and by using the most innovative technologies to reduce the impacts of our own operations,” said Dean DeBeltz, Twin Metals’ vice president of external affairs and project operations.

The assessment compared global averages for copper and nickel concentrate production and Twin Metals officials say it confirms the proposed venture near Ely will be a low-carbon producer.

The report states, “We conclude that the carbon footprint of Twin Metals Minnesota’s copper and nickel in concentrate products are very low and therefore can be the product of choice for carbon sensitive customers and value chains.”

The full report may be accessed online at

According to a news release from the company, Twin Metals concludes its mine can produce copper and nickel concentrates with a lower carbon footprint compared to the majority of mining operations in North America.

A life cycle assessment is a methodology for quantifying environmental impacts associated with a process, project or operation. The assessment is done by evaluating the embodied impact of material and energy flows as well as emissions outputs for producing a product, such as copper and nickel concentrates.

According to Twin Metals, Minviro has conducted life cycle assessments for a variety of companies interested in improving the sustainability of the mineral supply chain, including both mining projects and end users like Tesla.

Currently mired in political and environmental obstacles, including opposition from the Biden Administration, the Twin Metals project has been in the works for more than a decade and calls for the construction of an underground mine south of Ely. The company estimates it would bring hundreds of new mining jobs to the region.

In addition to producing low-carbon critical minerals concentrates, the Twin Metals project will be an underground mine, meaning that its surface impact will be one-fifth the size of a traditional open pit mine of similar production capacity.

With future plans to pursue carbon sequestration on site within the mine’s tailings, Twin Metals officials say the project is on track to become carbon neutral.

Clean energy technologies are incredibly mineral intensive. An electric vehicle requires six times more minerals than a standard car, while a single wind turbine can contain up to five tons of copper.

According to Twin Metals, “the shift to a clean energy future that deploys these types of technologies is driving a huge increase in the requirements for low-carbon critical minerals like the ones Twin Metals will produce. Twin Metals’ mineral deposit contains enough nickel to produce 87 million electric vehicles.”

“A greener future requires mining, and it also requires that we mine in the least impactful way possible,” said DeBeltz. “This life cycle assessment demonstrates that Twin Metals has – for more than a decade – focused on environmentally informed decision making in order to put forward the most sustainable project possible.”

The Twin Metals project has been named on the top 10 copper and nickel projects globally based on the size of the mineral deposit.

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