MN: In Situ Leaching/Recovery, Modern Ore Processing, & Innovative Mining Technology

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MN: In Situ Leaching/Recovery, Modern Ore Processing, & Innovative Mining Technology

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This in depth interview ft.  Dr. Nathan Stubina, Vice President, Technologies, Sherritt International Corporation. He discusses the challenges of major innovation in mining including discussing how machines like Ball Mills and Flotations Cells have evolved, alternative technology, and roadblocks mine operators face when implementing new processes. He also discusses the public’s view of mining, the academic outlook on mining innovation, and how companies like Sherritt International, Barrick Gold, and Agnico Eagle have introduced innovation processing and mining solutions into their operation.


For his current company Nathan Outlined two innovations Sherritt International has introduced into their operations.


  1. “The first is a process that is able to treat high-arsenic containing copper concentrates.  The world needs more copper moving forward, especially if we want to electrify vehicles (EV market).  The issue with copper is that most of the known deposits contain a lot of arsenic. Too much arsenic to ship commercially and too much for smelters to handle. For example, China has stated that they will not accept any ships that contain over 1% arsenic.  Sherritt has tested, and is in the process of patenting a process that can handle high-arsenic containing copper concentrates.  We have tested over 4% arsenic.  Current smelters have a limit of about 0.5% arsenic (each smelter has their own limit – in percentage arsenic and tonnes per year of arsenic that they can handle).  Sherritt will be looking for partners who have high-arsenic concentrates to discuss this exciting new technology/opportunity with them.”
  2. “The second technology is what we refer to as NGL or Next Generation Laterite processing.  Laterites are nickel ores that are found as oxides.  Current processes for treating laterite ores are CAPEX intensive and are not very environmentally  sustainable.  As an example, Vale is looking to sell their Goro nickel operation in New Caledonia.  If you treat the nickel ore using a pyrometallurgical route (e.g. furnaces) then you produce a lot of slag, very little of the cobalt is recovered and you don’t treat the limonitic fraction of the ore.  If you treat them using a hydrometallurgical approach (e.g. like Sherritt does using leaching in autoclaves) then you produce a lot of tailings and you only treat the limonitic fraction of the ore and leave the saprolites behind.   The Sherritt NGL approach is to drive down CAPEX, lower OPEX, treat all of the laterites (limonites as well as saprolites), lower the cut-off grade and minimize any outfalls (waste).”


Dr. Nathan Stubina joined Sherritt International as vice president of technologies in November 2018. Prior to that, he was managing director of innovation for McEwen Mining. With 30 years of international industrial experience, he also worked at various major mining companies including Barrick Gold Corp., Noranda Inc. and Falconbridge Limited. Dr. Stubina holds a Ph.D., in metallurgy and materials from the University of Toronto and a B. Eng. in mining and metallurgical engineering from McGill University. Dr. Stubina is currently a member of the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO), and was the vice president of the International District of CIM. He is a Past-President of the Metallurgy & Materials Society of CIM and a member of the Lassonde Institute of Mining’s Advisory Committee at the University of Toronto.


Mining Now is a joint mining podcast and web series by CIM/ICM and Crownsmen Partners. Join us to learn about the latest innovations in operating mines to increase energy efficiency and production. We look into modern mining and processing equipment including autonomous vehicles and IOT technology. Experts tackle everything from skilled labour shortages to team building to meeting evolving safety regulations. This is the mining of today that will shape the mines of tomorrow.



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