Vale in Sudbury for the long haul: Digital technology, electric battery material reshaping nickel industry.

Author:McKinley, Karen

The mining industry is rapidly moving toward digital technology, and Sudbury could be at the heart of it with careful planning, said Vale's Ricus Grimbeek.

The chief operating officer for Canada, the U.K, and Asian refineries was the guest speaker at a Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce President's Luncheon Series on Jan. 10 at the Radisson hotel.

His message was clear: Vale has a decades-long plan to stay in the region, as well as help the city become the global hub of digital mining as it transforms the industry.

"I was talking to somebody and they said they thought there was maybe five good years of mining left here, and asked what I thought and I said, no," he said. "They asked if it was less or more."

For Vale, Grimbeek said the mining company is looking at least 20 to 30 more years of production in the basin alone.

And oddly enough, he said, climate change is going to help spur that sustainability with the increased global demand for battery electric vehicles with two milllion produced last year alone, mostly in China.

Grimbeek predicted 15 to 20 million vehicles being on the road in the next five years.

That demand is going to continue to increase as cities and countries change their infrastructure to adapt to the new technology.

Other renewable energy technology, such as windmills and storage facilities, will further drive the need for nickel and copper.

Whenever people think about the large batteries needed to power vehicles, lithium comes to mind immediately.

Grimbeek said most of the battery material needed will contain mostly nickel and some lithium.

"There's been a huge boost in the lithium shares because of the lithium batteries, but they haven't looked at the chemistry," he said.

"A small electric vehicle requires about 40 kilograms of nick el for the battery. That's a lot."

Mining itself is changing rapidly as it moves toward digital transformation. More operations are being executed by automation and artificial intelligence.

Mines are also being planned with sustainability and minimal environmental impact as part of the plan.

This will be an advantage for Sudbury, due to many of the local mining service companies already manufacturing products that are digitally based or running on batteries.

The city also has a long history of...

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