UBC and industry partnership spurs metallurgical sector development in BC’s Interior


Kelowna, BC – A $293,000 research partnership among Teck Metals Ltd., Fenix Advanced Materials, Drop Designs, Mitacs and the University of British Columbia (UBC) aims to use by-products from smelting operations to create economic development opportunities in British Columbia’s Southern Interior.

The three-year project, slated to begin this spring, challenges university researchers to find ways to sustainably extract and purify metals from lead-zinc smelting byproducts that can then be used by secondary industries in the province’s Kootenay Region.

“While it is currently possible to extract secondary minerals from smelting byproducts, current technology is both cost-prohibitive and requires the intensive use of chemicals,” says Lukas Bichler, School of Engineering associate professor at UBC Okanagan and the project’s research supervisor. “Our aim is to develop new ways to extract valuable minerals and metals.”

The research partnership was initiated by the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST) as a key element of its MIDAS project, an applied research, commercialization, and digital fabrication training facility in Trail, BC, focused on the metallurgical sector that exists in the region surrounding the Teck Trail Operations smelter.

MIDAS makes advances in metallurgical and manufacturing technology that are accessible to West Kootenay companies, entrepreneurs, and students.

The research partnership received $161,000 in funding from Mitacs, as well as $132,000 from the project’s corporate partners Teck Metals Ltd., Drop Designs, and Fenix Advanced Materials.

“Mitacs’ Accelerate program is a bridge between graduate students and businesses,” says Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director Alejandro Adem. “Through this multi-partner collaboration, UBC researchers will have the opportunity to work on a project that has the potential to create economic development in the BC Interior and grow an important sector in the province.”

In addition to funding, Teck Metals Ltd. will also provide by-product materials and technical support from its Trail facility.

“Our refining processes result in materials that have the potential to generate further economic value,” says Teck Trail Operations Superintendent of Knowledge Management Greg Richards. “We look forward to working closely with partners on this research initiative, which aligns with our ongoing commitment to providing long-term economic benefits to local communities and the region.”

Fenix Advanced Materials is engaged in advanced purification and re-shaping of ultra-high purity metals in Trail.

“If by-products can be turned into value-added products locally, it’s good for everybody,” says Fenix CEO Don Freschi. “There are huge opportunities out there for people willing to take that chance.”

Drop Minerals, a company involved in the development of advanced manufacturing methodology using abrasive content, is developing a system to use Teck downstream by-products in its water jet cutting process.

“Drop’s group of companies has a strong foundation and culture of investment in research and development,” says Drop CEO Anders Malpass. “This culture is embedded in our manufacturing production, processes, and products, and can be seen throughout our organizations.”