Focusing on the tungsten found in cemented carbide inserts, Terelion separates the valuable tungsten and reverts it to "virgin tungsten." The recovered material can then be used to manufacture new carbide inserts with a reduced cost and carbon footprint.
Last week the US-based company announced it had added Rio Tinto's Kennecott copper project in Utah to its circularity program. Both companies hailed the news as a positive step towards a sustainable mining future.
Mining Magazine spoke with Graeme McKenzie, director at Terelion, North America, about the initiative and what he hopes to achieve through the recycling program.
"We started with this program in 2022, and Rio Tinto Kennecott was our first [company], but now we have many new locations and sites that have signed [up] and are ready to sign [up]," he said.
McKenzie went on to explain how the tungsten will be separated and processed.
"The used products collected on site are transported to a partner where the dull tungsten carbide inserts are separated from the steel," he said. "The used carbide inserts are then sent to a process plant in Austria, where they are transformed back to the original powder form and then made into new tungsten carbide inserts that are used as the raw material for making new drill bits."
Terelion says it can reduce the emissions associated with shipping the used metal by separating the tungsten from the steel. As McKenzie explained, the process reduces the weight, which can minimise "90% of shipping emissions" compared to transporting a complete drill bit.
Additionally, the steel from the carbide bits will also be recycled locally.
"Our aim is 90% circularity by 2025, which means 90% of the cemented carbide we [are] producing we should recycle and send to our recycling plant partner," he said.