Ironstone Resources is nine years and $30 million dollars into developing the resources and technology to open a new mine and steel plant in Clear Hills and their most recent move is bringing Grande Prairie Regional College on as a partner. Ironstone CEO and President Barry Caplan says the two parties have signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on training and research.
“Our focus now in the next 18 to 24 months is to develop our own pilot plant here, close to the mine site. Once we work through that pilot plant over a period of 24 months, we’re ready to essentially make that final investment decision.”
That investment is estimated to be around $1.5 billion dollars, creating a thousand jobs in mining and mill works. The plant will produce an estimated million tonnes of steel a year.
Caplan argues that with the mine potentially operational by 2021, students entering high school can already be looking at getting the training needed. That’s where GPRC comes in. CEO and President Don Gnatiuk sees the partnership as a natural fit.
“We know we have a new business partner that’s coming into the community that’s going to have a significant impact on this region; our job is to serve. They’re an environmentally friendly [company], so we’re doing environmentally friendly research. They need trades and we do trades and Just-in-Time training is something we all share.”
Ironstone is interested in using the college’s research on growing greenhouse gas consuming algae, as it could help with capturing carbon dioxide. Other research includes developing commercial uses of lithium and vanadium, an element used to strengthen steel found in Clear Hills.
“But more importantly, [vanadium] has been shown to be an excellent electric metal in developing these large capacity batteries to store wind and solar energy,” explains Caplan. “That is really the missing link in expanding our renewables in Alberta.”
Caplan believes partnering with GPRC for their research could give them the opportunity to become a global leader in electric commodities. The mine is expected to have a more than 100 year life.