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:: Bactech seeks Government Funding for Bioleach Plant to Neutralize Toxic Arsenic Tailings in Cobalt, Ontario
BacTech Mining Corporation has applied for $10 million in government funding to build a pilot bioleach plant in the Cobalt area of Northern Ontario to neutralize the arsenic-laden tailings dumped there in the early 1900s. High grade silver was discovered in the Cobalt area in 1903, which led to a Klondike-like rush. Between 1903 and 1923, over 330 million ounces of silver were mined from high-grade veins, some yielding as much as 1,000 ounces per tonne.
Environmental mining practices at that time were non-existent and mining companies dumped vast quantities of tailings into local lakes and streams. The tailings contain very high levels of cobalt (as there were few uses for the metal at the time), nickel, silver, and large quantities of arsenic. Over the years, the arsenic leached into the local water supply to such an extent that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has strongly suggested that certain lakes in the area be avoided for swimming and/or consumption of fish.
BacTech's goal is to build a pilot-sized bioleach facility that would treat 200,000 tonnes of tailings per annum to demonstrate our ability to stabilize and neutralize the arsenic, while also recovering the significant quantities of cobalt, nickel and silver that remain in the tailings. Bioleaching is an environmentally-friendly and commercially-proven technology that not only liberates metals from refractory or sulphide ores, but also stabilizes arsenic in a benign end product approved for disposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The anticipated cost to build the pilot plant, including one year of working capital, is approximately $20 million. BacTech has applied to federal and Ontario agencies for a combined total of $10 million in funding. Bioleaching would significantly reduce the use of additional public funds required for the environmental clean-up of the tailings, outside of what is needed to build a pilot plant of sufficient size to allow for scale-up to a commercial plant. Should the government funding be granted, BacTech and partner, Gold Bullion Development Corp. ("Gold Bullion", TSX.V: GBB), plan to raise the remaining $10 million in approximately 12 months.
Reports state there are 16 to 18 million tonnes of tailings in the Cobalt area. In the event that the pilot plant study is successful, BacTech envisages building a commercial facility to treat up to approximately 1,000,000 tonnes of tailings per annum. It is expected that a commercial plant with that capacity would operate for a minimum of 15 years, thereby providing long-term employment for the region.
The benefits to Ontario are many and include:
Ross Orr, BacTech's President & CEO says, "We see Cobalt as a unique opportunity to create a world-class research facility, provide new employment opportunities, and stimulate the local tax base, while helping clean up the environment. We believe the plant will be a real asset to the area and to the recognition of our technology globally."
The building of a plant in the Cobalt area is conditional on positive results from preliminary bioleaching test work currently being conducted by SGS Lakefield ("SGS") in Lakefield, Ontario, on a 500 kg sample of tailings taken from Gold Bullion's Castle Mine tailings located in the Cobalt area. SGS has been retained to provide assay and mineralization analysis for the sample, as well as conduct a study to identify the appropriate pre-concentration method of obtaining maximum metal recovery. The resulting concentrate will be sent to SGS Oretest in Perth, Australia, where it will be subjected to a series of bioleaching amenability tests.
For additional information on the Cobalt pilot plant project, visit the Project section on the Company's web site at www.bactech.com.
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