Category 2: Large Companies
The Diavik Waste Rock Research Project is an unprecedented research program that is leading to better mine waste management to protect fragile northern environments for centuries to come.
Diamond mining has provided a major economic boost to the Northwest Territories, including Indigenous communities. But the long-term benefits depend on minimizing and preventing acid rock drainage (ARD). Mine wastes often contain sulfide minerals that, when exposed to air and water, form acidic water that can harm fish and aquatic life for hundreds of years, long after the mine has closed.
A 10-year collaboration involving a multidisciplinary team from three Canadian universities and engineers at the Diavik Diamond Mine has determined what causes mining waste and produced methods to predict the effects it will have on the environment.
Led by Dr. David Blowes, an expert in the prediction, remediation and prevention of groundwater contamination from mine wastes at the University of Waterloo, researchers used novel analytical techniques—including synchrotron X-rays—and advanced numerical models to enhance the biological and geochemical processes used for controlling the formation of ARD in waste rock piles.
That independent, peer-reviewed science convinced regulators to reduce the amount of Diavik’s security deposit, a guarantee companies must provide to ensure that the resources to close a mine will be available in the future. For large mines, these deposits can cost over $100 million.
The research team’s techniques are now working their way around the globe, helping mining companies worldwide design more cost-effective mitigation strategies that better protect the environment.
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