Foresight 50 Spotlight:
Rockburst Technologies Inc. – A Cleaner Future for Mining

February 1, 2024

Does using supercritical CO2 to exert tensile breakage in ore and other materials sound like the stuff of sci-fi to you? Yeah, us too. 

But that’s exactly the innovative technology that Rockburst Technologies Inc. has developed. Their new comminution technology—what they call transcritical CO2 pulverization (tCO2)—is a way of breaking ore and liberating valuable minerals, and has the potential to reduce both direct and indirect energy use and GHG emissions by at least 50 per cent compared to incumbent technologies.

The process derives its energy savings from taking advantage of the lower tensile strength of rock, which is 10 times weaker in tension than compression, and eliminates the need for grinding media during processing. 

Together with his business partners, Rockburst CEO Oscar Malpica has been developing various climate innovation projects for 10 years. Driven by the desire to advance carbon drawdown technologies, Rockburst Technology was born.

Comminution—the process of breaking up mining ore—consumes four per cent of the world’s electricity. In 2018, Natural Resources Canada issued an open innovation call under its Impact Canada - Crush It! Challenge to reduce the energy involved in the comminution process by 20 per cent. Rockburst was one of the six finalists selected from that challenge.

Since then, Rockburst has continued to grow and develop its technology, one of the only innovations on the market that addresses three of the most pressing sustainability challenges at once:

  1. Energy reduction: Rockburst’s tCO2 process offers significant energy savings in the comminution process, which consumes close to half the energy in a mine.
  2. Carbon usage and sequestration in one package: Their technology makes it possible to create virtuous GHG emission reduction loops by using CO2 flue gas from other industrial processes like cement manufacturing to power its process, while simultaneously sequestering CO2 in the comminuted product rock through mineralization and molecular trapping.
  3. Water use intensity reduction: tCO2 is a waterless technology, a unique aspect of this innovation that is a top of mind consideration for a large number of mines around the world.

Through its closed-loop system of CO2 re-capture and sequestration, the Rockburst team has estimated that their technology has the potential to remove up to half a gigaton of CO2e annually from the atmosphere with a market penetration of only 20 per cent.

With a conservatively estimated market opportunity of USD $3 billion annually, there is a tremendous opportunity for Rockburst’s tCO2 technology to have a major impact on the mining industry, and a major economic opportunity as well. As demand for critical minerals increases due to electrification and overall decarbonization efforts in the net zero transition, the opportunity for economic growth and energy savings in the sector will only increase.

A member of the 2023/24 Earth Tech: 2050 cohort, Rockburst Technologies has developed lab scale prototypes that have successfully tested ores from around the world from industry leaders. They are currently fundraising with the intention of developing a demonstration pilot to be deployed at a customer's site, with the goal of reaching the production of a full commercial unit in the next few years. 

Interested in learning more? Visit Rockburst Technology Inc. online and check out their Foresight 50 profile