Talon plans $433 million processing facility in North Dakota
Talon Metals announced plans to build its nickel processing plant in North Dakota. The plant will be used to process metals from the proposed Tamarack Mine in Minnesota.
Talon Metals received a $114 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the American Battery Material Initiative.
“Removing the processing facilities from the Tamarack mine site in Minnesota significantly reduces land disturbance and the scope of environmental review and permitting,” Talon said in a prepared statement.
The move to North Dakota will reduce surface disturbance at the Tamarack site by about half, Todd Malan, chief external affairs officer of Talon told the Star Tribune. As a result, both in terms of scope and workload, the permitting process is significantly reduced since they would apply only to the underground mine and rail-loading surface operations.
Talon's Minnesota plans are under pressure from environmental groups and the Sandy Lake Band of Mississippi Chippewa, which still opposes the mine.
Talon and its partner — Rio Tinto, the second largest global mining company — would create a rarity in the United States with the Tamarack project: a mine whose primary product is nickel, with copper as a secondary mineral. It already has signed a six-year contract with Tesla to provide the electric vehicle company with minerals.
The proposed battery-minerals processing plant would locate to an industrial brownfields site in Mercer County, N.D., processing feedstock from Talon's underground Tamarack mine and other potential sources in North America. Talon is negotiating to buy the site.
The North Dakota announcement also came last week.
“Talon plans to create 150 jobs and invest significant capital in [Mercer County],” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said in a statement. “By increasing domestic production of nickel and other battery minerals and reducing our reliance on foreign sources, we can strengthen our economy, our communities and our national security.”
The facility, Burgum said, would require a $433 million investment, including the $114 million from the Department of Energy.
Originally, Talon said the mining and processing facility would create 450 jobs in Aitkin County. In Minnesota, Talon still will hire 150 union steelworkers after Minnesota permits are issued, joining the 75 workers already doing exploratory work at the Tamarack site, Malan said.
Malan said the project is gaining support in the area.
"In our community meetings, participants have said they are proud that Aitkin County can supply vital ingredients for the domestic battery supply chain and address America's dependency on China and Russia for minerals like nickel," Malan said. "They also recognize that the nickel we can mine in Minnesota is infinitely recyclable and will be part of the U.S. battery supply chain for generations."
The group has said the U.S. industry needs to drastically increase recycling rates before building new mines to increase battery materials. The environmental groups also oppose the proposed Polymet mine at the site of the former LTV mine at Hoyt Lakes, and another by Twin Metals near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto, the world's second-largest mining company, began a serious prospecting program near Tamarack 20 years ago. In 2018, Rio signed on Talon as a joint venture partner for the mine. Talon, based in the British Virgin Islands, now has a 51 percent stake in Tamarack.
There is only one high-grade nickel mine in the United States, the Eagle Mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula — and it is expected to exhaust the mineral deposits in 2025 after nine years of operation.