Carleton University's Tim Patterson has received funding from the Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) Clean Growth Program to develop rapid, cost-effective protocols and technology for the mining sector to determine environmental baseline conditions, conduct land-use impact monitoring and to better protect aquatic ecosystem health.
Tim Patterson is a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Carleton University, which is located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
"Carleton continues to take the lead on research advancing sustainable resource development," said Rafik Goubran, vice-president (research and international) at Carleton University. "Patterson's research will foster a cleaner environment and play an important role in ensuring future mining in Canada does not damage the natural habitat."
The Canadian government's Mine Site Reclamation Policy (MSRP) for the Northwest Territories (NT) mandates that mines must be returned to self-sustaining ecosystems compatible with a healthy environment and human activities.
The mining sector operating in northern Canada faces numerous challenges in meeting regulatory compliance, including: legacy contamination associated with historical mineral processing and waste disposal, a lack of environmental background geochemical data, an elevated concentration of regulated elements in mineralised bedrock (e.g. arsenic), a rapidly changing climate affecting metal (loid mobility) and the generally slow sedimentation rate in northern lakes.
"We have developed an integrated freeze coring technology coupled with the emerging analytical tool, Itrax XRF geochemical core scanning, to address regulatory compliance challenges in Canada's northern mines," said Patterson. "This innovation has already been tested in collaboration with two gold mining companies in the Northwest Territories and it shows potential for widespread deployment with further refinement."
The field research will be carried out in collaboration with TerraX Minerals in lakes in the Yellowknife area of the Slave Geological Province in the central Northwest Territories. The laboratory work involving the freeze cores collected in the field will take place at Carleton.
Carleton University stated that the research project will fill a critical gap in the natural resource sector by advancing this emerging clean technology toward commercial readiness. The new technology could also contribute to economic opportunities through environmental risk reduction, provide a cost-effective way to differentiate between climate and mining-related environmental impacts and reduce the environmental risk of mining to aquatic ecosystems.