A natural clay mineral has been identified as a potential fix for a major carbon emitter, reducing pollution while providing a new end use for this quarried material.
Methane from cattle has long been recognised as a major source of greenhouse gas globally. So, the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE) and miner Latin Resources have partnered to make change.
Latin Resources owns the Noombenberry halloysite-kaolin project in Western Australia and the team at CRC CARE has chosen the Cloud Nine deposit at Noombenberry as a prime source for this important resource.
CRC CARE researchers have developed a way for high grade halloysite to be adapted into a low cost feed supplement to be added to the diet of beef or dairy cattle to reduce the methane in their stomachs.
“If we can find a way to reduce methane output from grazing animals like cattle, sheep and goats, we can limit a major source of global pollution that worries governments and climate policymakers – as well as farmers – everywhere,” said CRC CARE managing director professor Ravi Naidu.
Halloysite deposits have developed naturally over millions of years in arid environments like Australia and must be extracted from the clay in which it forms.
“If we succeed, it will mean that farmers everywhere do not have to cull their herds to meet climate targets, but can continue to produce quality beef and dairy to help feed the world,” Naidu said.
“This is vital for two key food industries, together worth $2 trillion and employing over 12 million people globally. Australia alone has 45,000 cattle enterprises.”
A secondary use was also identified for the halloysite, which forms in nanotubes, where the material could be placed inside a cattle shed to trap and absorb the methane.
The methane trapped in the halloysite could then be burned as a fuel to heat the shed, operate the farm or produce fertiliser.
“Cutting back on methane emissions is one of the most effective things we can do to reduce near-term global warming and keep to 1.5°C,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the United Nations’ Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland.
Naidu said Australia had a responsibility to take advantage of its natural resources in innovative and helpful ways such as this.
“Australia is richly endowed with large, diverse clay resources, which include deposits of world class size and purity,” Naidu said.
“These resources are largely underutilised due to poor market transformation, high transport costs and limited industry knowledge of clay properties, process methods and markets.”
Latin Resources managing director Chris Gale agreed the company was committed to using its resources to create a better world.
“As a resources company with a strong focus on environmental, social and governance processes, we are excited by the potential of this research project,” Gale said.
“There are few resources projects globally that have the potential to be world-changing and, while it’s early days, we believe we have partnered with the right team to deliver.”