Using Mine Tailings To Reduce Greenhouse Gases
This summer, researchers will conduct field trials at De Beers Group’s Gahcho Kue Diamond Mine in Canada’s N.W.T. to determine if the mine's tailings can trap greenhouse gases.
Announced Tuesday, the initiative is a research collaboration between UBC, the University of Alberta, Trent University and Institut national de la recherche scientifique.
The chemistry of Gahcho Kue's tailings have properties that make it suitable for trapping greenhouse gases. Researchers said that CO2 reacts with magnesium silicate and hydroxide minerals in tailings, waste that arises from mining nickel, diamond, platinum and other materials. The field trials will build upon a decade of studying the area.
"We estimate that reacting just 10 per cent of a mine's waste stream could be more than enough to offset the annual carbon emissions produced by a mining operation," said Greg Dipple, project lead and professor at the Bradshaw Research Initiative for Minerals and Mining (BRIMM) at UBC. The study is funded with a CAD$2 million grant from Natural Resources Canada's (NRCan) Clean Growth Program, and an additional CAD$1.2 million in funding from De Beers Group, FPX Nickel Corp, Giga Metals Corp and Geoscience B.C.
"This generous funding from the government and support from our industry partners will allow us to move these technologies to a larger scale at active mine sites,” Dipple said.
After the work in N.W.T. wraps up, there will be a field trial and at a prospective nickel mine in B.C. in 2020. Researchers said that efforts in N.W.T. will focus on capturing carbon dioxide produced by the mine's power plant, while testing in B.C. will focus on capturing carbon directly from the atmosphere.
"We’ve achieved rapid carbonation within days to weeks in the lab," said Dipple. "The challenge is to reproduce this success at large volumes in the field."