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NSERC Presents 2 Minutes With David Blowes
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences,
University of Waterloo and Carleton University, in Partnership with Diavik Diamond Mines Inc.


Video Name

2 Minutes with David Blowes


NSERC Communications



Release Date

February 17, 2015


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. 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. This team won one of NSERC's Synergy Awards for Innovation in 2014.

David Blowes

We work on environmental geochemistry and hydrogeology, and we look at the impacts of mining waste on environmental systems.

Richard Amos

So there’s mining going on throughout the world. The mining companies all have environmental risks that they need to be concerned about. The drainage that comes from waste rock can be very acidic, and if it were to get into a river or a lake, it has the potential to severely impact the ecosystems within those surface water bodies. However, if it’s managed correctly, then waste rock—then that risk can be severely minimized. This project really helps them to be able to mitigate those risks and operate in a way that’s better for the environment and is also better for their bottom line as well.

David Blowes

The work we’ve done, it’s really firstly focused on developing a management system that works with the environment and that can be a good example for management of waste at other mine sites as well. Understanding just the dynamics of the system overall has really come together through this project. We have a far better understanding of how water moves to the waste rock, the interaction between the water and the chemical reactions that are occurring in the waste rock.

This is really a team project. We’re the guys who are talking today, but there’s people from other universities who are involved. There’s people from government agencies, Environment Canada and there’s Diavik. They’ve provided the heavy duty equipment, the trucks and the back hoes and the bulldozers for doing the construction. They helped supervise that and scheduled that within their mine working plan. So without their assistance, we wouldn’t have been able to do it. Having NSERC come to the table is really important. They provided things like support for graduate students and travel to and from the field site, let us go to conferences and put together presentations, but that was really critical to developing the overall project.

Richard Amos

A number of our students are working with industry. They work for consulting companies that support the industry, and they work for government regulatory agencies as well.

David Blowes

For students to get a chance to work in the north at an active mine site is a great opportunity for them. They get to be part of the team that’s working at the site and they’re part of the integrated research team. So we get people from different universities working together, and they help train each other in skills that they wouldn’t get from an individual institution.

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