The companies, in collaboration with Oro Industries, will manufacture and deploy the systems under the deal's terms using a proprietary mechanical, hydro, electro-chemical and oxidation process. The solution is designed to reclaim the mercury efficiently and effectively from tailings and mining- and industrial-derived effluents.
Additionally, Oro will maintain ownership of the intellectual property, while MCU will have exclusive rights to the mercury remediation system for global deployment in partnership with Comstock.
"Over the past seven years, Comstock has implemented several approved plans, by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, intended to address NDEP's and the US Environmental Protection Agency protocols, guidance and goals for sampling, characterising, transporting and managing mercury within the Carson River Mercury Superfund Site," the mining company said.
"These plans and Comstock's existing permitted infrastructure provide an ideal platform for evaluating and fine-tuning the MCU process. MCU will work closely with NDEP for any additional approvals, engineering design changes or permits."
Comstock will invest C$2 million (US$1.5 million) in MCU, with right of first refusal on both business and capital investments. It will also own up to 25% of MCU, as well as 50% of a new 50-50 venture, Comstock Mercury Remediation (total interest = 62.5%).
Work on the system's technology first began in 2013 with Oro, which conducted a series of scientific studies with over 50 samples of tailings from various artisanal mining sites. The study revealed that it developed a safe, economical mercury recovery process that can remediate historic contamination and prevent new contaminations; it also proved that gold recoveries could self-sustain the remediation.
"The goal of eliminating mercury contamination from the environment and current, ongoing mining processes profitably is a staggering opportunity for our planet, our partners and our company," Comstock executive chairman and CEO Corrado De Gasperis said.
"[It] represents a significant step forward in our strategy for delivering conservation-based, economically enhancing mining technologies and processes, and our partners are already receiving and analysing domestic and international inquiries."
Looking forward, MCU's next step will be to demonstrate feasibility of the system within the historic, world-class Comstock Lode mining district. Comstock will provide the platform for testing the system, while MCU will conduct initial trials beginning with a two-short-ton-per-hour (1.8-tonne-per-hour) pilot operation that could scale up to 25 short tons per hour.
Oro will manufacture a recovery plant for deployment with a 200-gallon-per-minute (757-litre-per-minute) dissolved air flotation water recycling treatment plant and field laboratory. The mobile system will initially be at Comstock's fully contained and double-lined processing facility.
"Samples from the within the Comstock and identified Carson River mercury sites, will be analysed, extracted and transported per the SAP to the MCU processing facility located at Comstock's American Flat processing facility located in Storey County, Nevada," the group said.
"Comstock and MCU will work closely with the NDEP on all protocols, including test areas, documentation standards and routine, periodic reporting, and full technical and economic feasibility processes will continue for 12 to 18 months."