Active mining companies fund university remediation researchers – Yukon News

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Dries tailings from Alexco’s Flame and Moth plant just outside Keno City. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)

The Office of the Yukon Science Advisor works hard to make the research done by the Northern Research Center more accessible and the names that work there more recognizable.

On February 25, Dr. Guillaume Nielsen, Industrial Research Chair in Northern Mining at Yukon University, presented his remediation research projects to a group of interested people gathered by the intermediary of the Yukon Scientific Community of Practice (SCOPe) during their Lunch-and-Learn webinar series.

Yukon University has been able to attract and retain more research positions for the university and is increasing the reputation of the university’s Center for Northern Innovation in mining. Funding from the center is combined with funds from Employment and Skills Development Canada, or Crown-Indigenous Relations, and other sources such as NSERC. NSERC is the common name for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Canada’s federal agency for funding research in colleges and universities.

Nielsen became the NSERC Industrial Research Chair at Yukon University in 2019 and is now three and a half years into his five-year tenure.

Holding an NSERC Chair is a bit different from the Canada Research Chair program, in that it emphasizes applied research. And while the nomination comes with a $900,000 grant over 5 years, it requires active business partners to share some of the research costs.

Yukon University’s Center for Northern Innovation in Mining is designed to be industry-focused. The majority of its board members are from Yukon mining companies.

Dr. Bronwyn Hancock, associate vice president at Yukon University, says the board helps set the strategic direction of the center, recommending courses and training opportunities, as well as setting research priorities.

Dr. Nielsen focuses on passive mine remediation in partnership with a consortium of seven active mining companies, almost the same names as those on the board – Minto Metals, Victoria Gold, Alexco Resources, Selwyn Chihong, Newmont, Western Copper & Gold and BMC Minerals. All eager to have university researchers to help solve their problems in the areas of mining waste and remediation.

NSERC project funding is only 50% cash — other contributions come from industry partners who help focus applied research to solve problems facing their companies with matching funding — 25% cash and 25% in nature. Nielsen says in-kind contributions come in the form of on-site accommodations, meals, and use of equipment.

All research remains in the public sphere and researchers retain their academic independence.

Real-world problems Nielsen’s research addresses include mine waste management, revegetation of mine sites, and he is experimenting with water treatment through passive or semi-passive technologies. All are complicated by cold weather and freeze-thaw cycles in the north.

The stakes for new mines are not the same as for abandoned mines.

In a December 13 interview with the News, Nielson explained the difference between abandoned and active mines. He said: “The first thing not to do is leave residue on the surface and let it oxidize. And as for Faro, “it’s a huge site, it’s like dust, and you have to manage it because it was created. And it’s the nightmare. It’s an abandoned mine.

“The active mines I work with already know you don’t do that. So you style it with new technologies. There are lots of things you can do to avoid an environmental mess.

But once you have that mess, that’s another story. Nielsen’s plate is full. He has ongoing experiments, he is developing education programs for the youth of Pelly Crossing; and is busy collecting data and trying to make things work without large amounts of lime.

When Nielsen was a PhD student. as a student, he discovered that molasses would stimulate microorganisms to clean up mud ponds near Keno City. He strives to find alternatives to adding lime, which is the most common and least expensive water treatment method.

During his lunch presentation, using a photo of an old bridge in France, he explained the chemistry that makes the continual maintenance of lime-based remediation necessary forever. Many abandoned mine remediation plans present a need to treat in perpetuity, rather than being restored and closed.

The NERC program that makes Nielsen’s research possible will run for another two years. Nielsen said the planned five-year renewal opportunity was shut down by federal programmers.

The February 25 SCOP(e) webinar attracted approximately 22 participants. The session, with time remaining at the end, provided an opportunity for cross-fertilization of ideas and practices from all disciplines. Randy Lewis, a researcher with decades of experience with Yukon plants and seeds, ended up talking to Nielsen about the importance of establishing local seed banks in the same area before soil disturbance and logging. mining. This ensures that seeds from the same area are available for recovery at the end of operations.

That’s what SCOPe is about — encouraging discussion and giving the public an opportunity to hear from those who are generating knowledge and addressing pressing issues for the Yukon and beyond.

To join SCOPe, email the Office of the Science Advisor at [email protected] The speaker series pauses for Spring Break but will resume on March 24.

Contact Lawrie Crawford at [email protected]

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