Where does Wisconsin stand on the potential for nickel mining development?

The quest for new sources of nickel to power the Electric Vehicle (EV) Industry is rapidly accelerating.

Why nickel? According to the Nickel Institute “the major advantage of using nickel in batteries is that it helps deliver higher energy density and greater storage capacity at a lower cost. Further advances in nickel-containing battery technology mean it is set for an increasing role in energy storage systems, helping make the cost of each kWh of battery storage more competitive. It is making energy production from intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar replace fossil fuels more viable.” The Nickel Industry anticipates exponential growth in the use of nickel for batteries.

The USGS Potential for New Nickel-Copper Sulfide Deposits in the Lake Superior Region

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey are evaluating the potential for undiscovered sulfide deposits containing varying amounts of nickel, copper, platinum-group metals, and cobalt in the Lake Superior region as part of an ongoing effort to assess the mineral potential of the United States. Similarities between rocks of the Midcontinent rift and rocks that host the Voisey Bay nickel-copper-cobalt deposit in Labrador, Canada, and the Noril'sk nickel-copper-platinum-group-metals deposits in Russia suggest a high potential for such sulfide deposits in rocks associated with the 1.1-billion-year-old Midcontinent rift in the Lake Superior region.

How are Ni-Cu Sulfide Deposits Formed?

 

Formation of these deposits begins with the melting of hot mantle rising as a plume from deep in the Earth. The melting produces basaltic magma that is relatively rich in metals but may be poor in sulfur, which then rises upward and intrudes into the crust, forming magma chambers. In these chambers, basaltic magma may interact with the crust and become contaminated. Sulfur from surrounding rocks may be incorporated into the magma. This contamination reduces the ability of the magma to keep sulfur in solution, and the magma may become sulfur saturated. When sulfur saturation occurs, droplets of sulfide liquid form; because the droplets are more dense than basaltic magma, they tend to settle into the lower part of the magma chamber. As the sulfide droplets segregate, they scavenge metals such as nickel, copper, platinum (Pt), and palladium (Pd) from the magma. If these sulfide droplets become sufficiently concentrated, a magmatic sulfide deposit is formed.

Potential for Undiscovered Sulfide Deposits in the Midcontinent Rift

On the basis of data recently collected by USGS scientists and their collaborators and of comparisons with the Noril'sk and Voisey Bay regions, a high potential exists for undiscovered Nickel-Copper sulfide deposits to occur locally in Midcontinent rift rocks in the Lake Superior region. In particular, the Yellow Dog Peridotite and the Echo Lake Gabbro in Upper Michigan and the Mellen Complex and related feeder intrusions in northern Wisconsin are considered favorable targets. An inferred intrusion in western Wisconsin recently discovered by geophysical techniques may also have potential for sulfide mineralization.

What Is Known

According to The Diggings and US-Mining there are at least 8 or 9 known nickel deposits in Wisconsin, some being in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Mineral deposits in the National Forest are subject to the “continuing policy of the Federal Government in the national interest to foster and encourage private enterprise in the development of economically sound and stable domestic mining, minerals, metal and mineral reclamation industries” under the Mining and Minerals Policy Act of 1970. That means the USDA, who manages National Public Lands – like National Forests, actually promotes mineral extraction in our public lands. The only way to save the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest from mineral extraction would be to “withdrawal it from entry” under BLM guidelines for these activities. About a dozen states are actively attempting this. Wisconsin is not one of them. Neighboring Minnesota is going through the process now.

The Latest Development

The January 2022 announcement by electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla to get nickel from northern Minnesota starting in just four years brings the potential for a nickel mine closer to Wisconsin’s border. As the EV market continues to rapidly grow so does the proportion of nickel used in battery technologies. The Nickel Industry anticipates that nickel will constitute an ever increasing percentage of the minerals that make up advancing battery technologies. Some good news about the intense need for more nickel is that recycling to salvage nickel from spent batteries is also forecast to grow at a similar rate. Pay attention to the nickel subject and brace yourself for the rapid pace of development.

More on the subject here: Tesla commits to 75,000 tons of nickel from Minnesota

Sent to WNPJ by Langlade County langladecounty@yahoo.com