Research on Mine Waste to Help Industry Become Carbon Neutral

July 23, 2019

New funding from Natural Resources Canada will support application of Trent University research using mine tailings to capture CO2

Trent University assistant professor Dr. Ian Power collects mine tailings from the De Beers’ Gahcho Kué Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories.
Trent University assistant professor Dr. Ian Power collects mine tailings from the De Beers’ Gahcho Kué Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories.

Trent University is leading research on methods for directly capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into mine tailings, which will help mining operations offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

Today, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) announced $2 million through its Clean Growth Program for an initiative that will apply research by Dr. Ian Power, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Geoscience and assistant professor in the Trent School of the Environment. Professor Power is investigating how waste from mining operations can be used to capture and store carbon dioxide.

“The support from NRCan’s Clean Growth Program will accelerate our research that has the potential to lead towards carbon-neutral mining in the future,” says Prof. Power. “Trent University will lead pilot projects that are designed to accelerate the natural weathering and mineralization of carbon dioxide by using innovative tailings management practices that can be incorporated into active and closed mines.”

As rocks and minerals weather, CO2 is captured directly from the air. At mines, the crushing and pulverizing of vast quantities of rock dramatically accelerates these natural weathering rates, and this process can be further accelerated by maximizing the reaction between CO2 and magnesium silicate-rich mine tailings.

The funding from NRCan will launch field trials of tailings management practices at the De Beers Group’s mining operations. These field trials are a collaboration between Trent University, the University of British Columbia (UBC), the University of Alberta, Université INRS, and De Beers Group.

Prof. Power will work with Professor Sasha Wilson of the University of Alberta on De Beers’ mining operations, but the research and technologies are applicable to other deposit types including nickel, chromium, and platinum. 

The funding announced today by Michael McLeod, the member of parliament for Northwest Territories, will be shared by the project team, along with $675,000 contributed by De Beers Group.

“We are immensely proud of this collaborative piece of work between industry and academia, and with excellent progress in the project to date there is great potential to achieve carbon-neutral mining operations at sites where this type of rock is present,” says Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers Group.

The funding from NRCan is part of a $155-million investment by the Government of Canada into clean technology research and development in the energy, mining and forestry sectors in Canada.