Penny Morrill and Tao Cheng of the Department of Earth Sciences will receive $24,244 from the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador (RDC) to investigate improved methods of remediating acid mine drainage from legacy mine sites.
This is one of four mining projects being funded by RDC to improve technical processes and investigate new ways to apply environmentally responsible disposal practices. The pair will work in collaboration with Rambler Metals and Mining, and Dr. Abigail Steel of the provincial government’s mines branch.
“RDC is actively supporting R&D projects that will improve the likelihood of new discoveries, and increase metal recoveries from known deposits,” said Glenn Janes, chief executive officer of RDC. “By investing in R&D to develop new and better technical processes, it is possible to extend the life of our mines for the benefit of both industry and nearby communities.”
Mining of mineral sulphides like chalcopyrite, a common copper mineral mined in Newfoundland, produces waste rocks and liquid mine tailings. These tailings contain residual heavy metals such as iron and lead. When exposed to water and air, the mineral sulfides oxidize, producing acid mine drainage (AMD), acidic water containing high concentrations of heavy metals. If allowed to escape into the general environment, AMD can cause problems for plants, animals and drinking water.
To better understand how AMD from mine tailings can be remediated, Drs. Morrill and Cheng will look at ways of reducing the acidity and heavy metal content of AMD at two former mining sites: the former copper mines of Consolidated Rambler Mines Ltd., and the Gullbridge Copper Mine.
Three approaches will be taken to see if AMD can be remediated naturally; by encouraging the growth of special microbes that can reduce the acidity and in turn decrease heavy metal concentrations; and whether plants can take up heavy metals through their root systems, thereby removing metals from the environment.
Part of the experimental work will include testing the use of biofoul, or waste from shellfish industry, to create the necessary oxygen-poor conditions that allow beneficial microbes to flourish. Positive outcomes from the research will improve the environmental sustainability of mining, and alleviate potential threats from legacy tailings.
RDC is supporting this research by contributing $24,244 from its GeoEXPLORE Collaborative program to a total project cost of $29,580.
The announcement was made at the opening of the annual Baie Verte Mining Conference by Keith Hutchings, minister responsible for RDC. Three other mining R&D projects in the province will also receive funding for a total of $464,308.
“The mining industry in Newfoundland and Labrador continues to be a strong contributor to our economy. It has a rich history of providing rural employment, as well as enhancing industrial growth,” said Minister Hutchings. “R&D investments in the mining and minerals sector further demonstrate our government’s commitment to developing technical solutions that will contribute to long-term sustainability, while maintaining practices that are environmentally responsible.”
Rambler Metals and Mining Canada Limited will receive funding for two other projects being carried out at or near its Ming Copper-Gold Mine on the Baie Verte Peninsula. One project will research the viability of extracting gold from nearby, exposed, legacy mine tailings; while the other will test the technical and economical feasibility of extracting copper from the Ming Mine’s lower footwall zone.
A fourth project will see Anaconda Mining Inc. receive funding to increase efficiency in both its mining and milling operations at its Pine Cove Mine on the Baie Verte Peninsula. Working in collaboration with the College of the North Atlantic (CNA), Anaconda will investigate grade control in the open pit, and increased gold recovery in the milling process.