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NSERCís Toward Environmentally Responsible Resource Extraction Network (TERRE-NET)

Challenge

Mining is an important sector of the global economy, because it provides the raw materials used in virtually all other industries around the world. Canada is a world leader in the production of mined commodities, including base and precious metals, coal, diamonds, petroleum, and uranium. But the environmental and social impacts associated with mining remain an important issue. In particular, mines can release drainage contaminated by high concentrations of dissolved metals, sulfates, and acids, all of which pose prominent threats to the environment. Effective methods are needed to predict, mitigate, and remedy these environmental threats.

New methods and technologies for managing and stabilizing mine wastes, treating contaminated mine water, and remediating decommissioned and abandoned mine sites have been developed and are being used throughout Canada. But more research is needed to enhance these methods and technologies and develop new ones. Concerns regarding past remediation strategies and the long-term effectiveness of current mine-waste management practices are the main focus of NSERC’s Toward Environmentally Responsible Resource Extraction Network (TERRE-NET). By addressing these concerns, this research network will help to bridge the gap between discovery and innovation in implementing better mine management and remediation technologies.

Network Structure

TERRE-NET brings together 15 leading researchers from seven universities across Canada (University of Waterloo, University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, University of Saskatchewan, University of Ottawa, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, and Memorial University of Newfoundland) and 26 partner organizations, including provincial, territorial and federal agencies and industry associations. This research network’s members have extensive expertise in all areas of mine-waste management and remediation, as well as in interaction with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. TERRE-NET’s collaboration with key industry partners, industry associations, government organizations and regulatory agencies in Canada, as well as with international partners, will ensure that this network provides real-world solutions for mine-waste management and remediation technologies both in Canada and around the world.

NSERC’s TERRE-NET builds on the strengths of NSERC’s TERRE-CREATE program, which provides enhanced training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Working together, TERRE-NET and TERRE-CREATE will forge close collaborative ties among world-class researchers and research facilities at top Canadian and international universities. These ties will enable TERRE-NET to prepare the next generation of scientists to address the pressing challenges of long-term environmental protection at active, decommissioned, and abandoned mine sites.

Research Objectives

TERRE-NET’s mission is to research and develop cutting-edge approaches and technologies for environmentally and socially responsible handling of the wastes generated during extraction of mineral and energy resources.

TERRE-NET’s research projects are organized under the following seven themes, each with a defined overall research objective that is directly relevant to the needs of the network’s partner organizations.

  • Abandoned Mine Site Remediation: develop a comprehensive framework to assist in the optimization of remediation strategies for abandoned mine sites.
  • Predictive Tools for Mine-Waste Management: develop novel, robust, efficient numerical models to predict the environmental impacts of mine wastes.
  • Cross-Cutting Methods and Technologies: provide fundamental knowledge of the biogeochemical, mineralogical, and hydrological mechanisms and processes that control the physical and chemical stability of mine wastes.
  • Indigenous Knowledge Integration for Understanding Risks and Costs/Benefits of Resource Extraction: integrate local and Indigenous knowledge indicators and monitoring practices, as well as cost/benefit analyses, into mine-waste management approaches.
  • Innovative Treatment Technologies for Mine-Impacted Water: develop cost-effective strategies for treatment and remediation of mine wastewater.
  • Remediation Strategies for Mine Wastes: develop and optimize the performance of remediation strategies for preventing the release of contaminated water at active and decommissioned mine sites.
  • Mine-Waste Design: transform mine-waste management practices through the development of new methods for creating physically and chemically stable mine-waste structures that are easily remediated at the end of mine life.

Outcomes

The results that TERRE-NET achieves will help its partners to develop cutting-edge waste-management strategies and:

  • secure Canadian leadership in environmentally responsible resource extraction both in Canada and abroad;
  • develop, optimize, and implement new predictive tools, remediation strategies, and water-treatment technologies in partnership with Canadian industry and government agencies; and
  • forge lasting relationships among partners from the private and public sector, strengthening collaborations among academic researchers, the Canadian mining industry, government agencies, government researchers, First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, and international partners.

Contact

Steve Holland
Network Manager
Email: steve.holland@uwaterloo.ca
Tel.: 519-888-4567, ext. 38165


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