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Giga Metals: ready to ride the green transition wave

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Giga Metals’ [TSXV: GIGA] Turnagain Project is among the largest undeveloped sulphide nickel deposits in the world. The project is located in northern British Columbia on the traditional territory of the Tahltan and Kaska Dena, 65 kilometers east of Dease Lake and 400 kilometers north of the Port of Stewart.

The project’s Positive Pre-Feasibility Study was filed in October 2023 and models an annual production of 35,224 tonnes of nickel and 2,064 tonnes of cobalt for 30 years. Giga Metals, a Canadian junior, has partnered with Mitsubishi Corporation to develop the project to the Bankable Feasibility Level.

With a low carbon emission of less than 1.8 tons of CO2 per tonne of nickel and naturally occurring CO2 sequestration in tailings through mineral carbonation, the Turnagain Project has the potential to be one of the most environmentally friendly nickel mines globally.

High grade clean concentrate to meet global demands

Traditionally, the largest end user of nickel has been the stainless-steel industry with production being somewhat predictable and correlating very closely to global GDP growth. However, the recent growth of electric vehicle production has altered the established nickel demand with the EV sector now making up to 16% of total demand and projections for EV battery demand to increase to around 40% of total global nickel consumption in the near future.

Nickel is a crucial component of electric car batteries because of the metal’s high energy density which allows for longer range. Because of this, nickel has been classified as a critical mineral throughout the world and countries are introducing targets to shift the automotive industry towards electrification.

For example, the United States is aiming for half of all new vehicles to be electric by 2030. Canada’s target is 30% by 2030, rising to 100% by 2040. The EU plans for all new vehicles being sold in the union to be electric by 2035. These ambitious timelines will require global production of battery materials to increase over the next seven to 15 years.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the world will need 60 new nickel mines by 2030, alongside 50 new lithium mines and 17 new cobalt mines to meet the demands of the energy-transition.

World Nickel use in Batteries

The Turnagain Project is well positioned to meet these demands since the resource is modelled to produce a clean, high-grade concentrate containing 18% nickel and 1% cobalt. This proportion is ideal for the most popular electric vehicle batteries with nickel making up about 80% of the cathode component and cobalt about 10%.

Additionally, Turnagain could be a preferred supplier for Giga factories due to its location in British Columbia, Canada. The recent Inflation Reduction Act in North America requires battery components to be mined, refined, or processed in the US or by free trade allies (FTA) with the goal being to reduce dependency on Chinese critical minerals.

Starting in 2024, all new electric cars made in the US will have to source 40% of battery metals and half of the battery components from North America for car buyers to be eligible for the full EV tax credit. North American car makers are keen to set up local access to these vital EV metals as soon as possible.

Positive pre-feasibility study in place

The Pre-Feasibility Study was prepared by the consulting firm Tetra Tech Canada and shows that the Turnagain Project can deliver a reliable high-grade nickel sulphide concentrate through the process of froth flotation. This desirable concentrate can then have multiple product paths including smelters or pressure oxidation circuit to Class 1 nickel.

The PFS also includes a robust geometallurgical campaign featuring 70 samples that were fit to a high-precision recovery algorithm which allows Giga Metals to predict the recovery from any given sample with high accuracy. This operation greatly de-risks the process and these findings showed that even low-grade materials can be processed to produce high-grade nickel sulphide concentrate.

Although the study has modelled a 30-year mine based on 950.5 million tonnes of reserves, the life of mine has the potential to be much longer than with the reserves, being a subset of 1.5 billion tons of measured and indicated resources and 1.1 billion tons of inferred resources. Approximately 95% of the Resources lie in the Horsetrail-Northwest-Duffy zones and the deposit remains open to expansion. The resources that have been drilled off represent about 20% of the prospective volume of the Turnagain intrusive.

The large open pit mine would cost $1.9 billion USD to build with operating costs of $3.85 USD per lb of nickel concentrate and a capex per annual tonne of nickel of $58,000.00 USD. Additionally, the mine will have a very low strip ratio of 0.4:1.

A focus on responsible mining

Giga Metals prioritizes responsible mining with plans to use hydro energy as its main source of power, electric shovels and drills, and the potential to have a fully electrified mine fleet by the time the mine is under construction. The project also features CO2 sequestration through naturally occurring mineral carbonation with plans to transform the tailings management facility into a permanent carbon mineralization facility. Test results show that there is a pathway for the project to be a net-zero nickel mine.

Estimated Nickel CO2e Emissions

Giga Metals has been supporting the research of low intensity and high intensity sequestration carried out by Dr. Greg Dipple and his team at both the University of British Columbia and CarbMinLab. CO2 sequestration could occur on the Turnagain mine site when the silicate minerals are exposed to the atmosphere. These minerals would naturally absorb CO2 and be converted to carbonate materials with the carbon then being locked away for geological time frames. Dr. Dipple and his team are currently developing measurement techniques for this methodology. If successful, the project has the potential to receive significant carbon credits.

Giga Metals’ focus on ESG standards has made the Turnagain Project incredibly appealing to many strategic investors, particularly European carmakers and OEMS who have their own environmental regulations they must abide by. As more countries move away from reliance on Chinese backed nickel mining in Indonesia, projects like Turnagain will be imperative for the global battery supply chain.

Martin Vydra, President of Giga Metals, notes “As the only North American undeveloped nickel deposit of this scale solely focused on the Class I and the battery chemical market, we think our emphasis on low carbon and other ESG principles will make us a desirable source of battery metals for electric vehicles”.

Podcast: Giga Metals well placed for the global EV transition with its Nickel resource

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This article does not constitute investment advice. Make sure you do your own research or consult a professional advisor.

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