RDE invests in mining and petroleum-related R&D at Memorial University

Apr 22nd, 2014


RDE invests in mining and petroleum-related R&D at Memorial University

Five Memorial-led research projects recently received a boost from the Research & Development Corporation (RDC). RDC is investing more than $475,000 in five research and development projects related to mineral exploration and development. The projects are aimed at enhancing exploration efforts, improving environmental mitigation strategies and strengthening R&D opportunities through the purchase of specialized equipment. 

“The mining sector has been integral to economic growth in Newfoundland and Labrador," said Terry French, minister responsible for RDC. "We are fortunate to have a diverse, mineral-rich land, and a successful local industry. The investment in R&D reinforces that success, ensuring that we remain competitive in the international market.” 

The total investment in these projects is more than $700,000, with the balance of funding coming from the private sector and other funding agencies. Researchers in the Faculties of Science and Arts, as well as Grenfell Campus and the Labrador Institute, received funding.

Dr. Joinal Abedin, Labrador Institute, aims to improve environmental mitigation in the mining industry.  

"The acidity and metal load in acid mine drainage is considered one of mining's most serious threats to the natural environment," he said. "This study will evaluate biochar, a material produced through Newfoundland and Labrador's abundance of waste wood, to remediate the problem. This research has the potential to initiate a much more cost-effective solution for the mining industry to mitigate acid mine drainage."

Dr. Richard Marceau, vice-president (research), welcomed the funding announcement.

“The funding Memorial has received from the Research & Development Corporation, combined with the overall support shown by the provincial government, is essential to our researchers. RDC’s investments will enable innovative research projects that create valuable learning opportunities for students while responding to the needs of the mining and petroleum industries.”

A sixth project, led by Dr. Gary Thompson at the College of the North Atlantic, also has a Memorial connection. Dr. Thompson will work collaboratively with Dr. Derek Wilton, Department of Earth Sciences, to establish a portable geochemical laboratory.

The Research & Development Corporation is a provincial Crown corporation responsible for improving Newfoundland and Labrador’s research and development performance.

Projects that received funding include:

Dr. Graham Layne, Department of Earth Science, Faculty of Science
Mineralogical, geochemical & geochronological study of the Valentine Lake Gold Property

This project is designed to enhance gold exploration efforts on the Valentine Lake property, located in west central Newfoundland approximately 57 km south of Buchans. Dr. Graham Layne will collaborate with Marathon Gold Corporation to identity additional targets with prospectivity for gold mineralization in an effort to further increase the existing gold resources on the property. This research will include the characterization of the mineralogy, geochemistry and geochronology of the property. RDC’s investment is 85,673 with total project costs of $103,173.

Dr. Colin Farquharson and Dr. Ronald Haynes, Department of Earth Sciences, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
GPU-based high performance computer for geophysical applications

This project will support the purchase of a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)-based high performance computer (HPC) for geophysical applications. The GPU-based computer will enhance current capabilities at Memorial University allowing researchers to work on larger data sets, such as those used for geophysical modelling. This project demonstrates R&D capacity that may help maintain and possibly enhance the competitive edge of the local exploration industry. By improving capacity at Memorial for high performance computing, researchers and students will have access to facilities that allow them to create optimized algorithms, process at higher speeds and improve the resolution for processing geophysical data. These technological enhancements will help in the exploration for minerals and hydrocarbons. RDC’s investment is $79,496 with additional funding of $63,597 from CFI and $15,900 from other sources. Total project costs are $158,993.

Drs. Penny Morrill and Vaughan Grimes, Department of Earth Science, Department of Archaeology
Compositional and isotopic characterization of complex organic samples for the study of origin and preservation of hydrocarbons and biological tissues

This project supports the purchase of new instrumentation and equipment that will enhance Memorial’s research in hydrocarbon sourcing, mining and mineral resources and the environment, and will directly benefit Drs. Penny Morrill and Vaughn Grimes’ research. The equipment will be housed in the Earth Resources Research and Analysis (TERRA) facility in the Department of Earth Science, and will attract and retain highly qualified personnel in the province. RDC’s investment is $110,212 with additional funding of $110,106 from CFI and $56,912 from other sources. Total project costs are $277,230.

Dr. Joinal Abedin, Labrador Institute
Laboratory evaluation of the use of biochar application on sulfidic mine tailings to reduce acid generation and increase immobilization of metals

During the mining and milling of sulfide-bearing ores, large quantities of waste rock and mill tailings are generated and will turn into sulphuric acid known as Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) when combined with air and water. AMD is harmful to fish and other aquatic life, and is an ongoing industry issue. Although remediation processes for AMD are currently used by the mining industry, Dr. Joinal Abedin is collaborating with Vale and Biochar Solutions to demonstrate that biochar, a carbonaceous solid produced from biomass such as waste wood, crop residue or other organic materials, combined with pyrolysis (combustion with a limited supply of oxygen) can provide an effective, low cost solution for the remediation of AMD. If this project is successful, Dr. Abedin will undergo proof of concept testing in collaboration with industry partners at an AMD site. RDC’s investment is $100,000.

Dr. Harunur Rashid, Earth and Environmental Sciences/Division of Science, Grenfell Campus
Geotechnical properties and stratigraphy of Quaternary sediments on the continental slope of the Salar Basin

This project will provide geotechnical information on the Salar Basin, which is a relatively unexplored region of the continental shelf for petroleum deposits. Characterization of sediments and determination of stability is required prior to offshore exploratory drilling and seafloor installations. Dr. Harunur Rashid’s project will assess sediment instability and identify potential geohazards. Research findings of Dr. Rashid’s project will help companies interested in pursuing offshore oil and gas exploration activities in the Salar Basin. In addition, results from this project will assist energy-producing companies in determining the economics and safety of exploration and development. RDC’s investment is $100,000.