INRS joins forces with Canadian universities against greenhouse gas emissions

July 24, 2019 | Julie Robert

Mise à jour : November 4, 2020

A team at INRS led by Louis-César Pasquier will take part in a pan-Canadian research project that combats greenhouse gas emissions by trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) in mine tailings, the waste left over from ore mining.

The project led by the University of British Columbia, in collaboration with the University of Alberta, Trent University and INRS as well as three leading mining companies—heads to the field this summer with a $2-million boost from Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) Clean Growth Program. The funding was announced this week in Yellowknife, N.W.T., as part of the program’s investments into clean technology research and development in the Canadian mining sector.

“This is a very important contribution to the development of future mining operations that are sustainable and carboneutral. My group is thrilled to participate in this project, which will allow a better understanding of the interactions between a flue (combustion) gas and mining residues in natural conditions,” says Louis-César Pasquier, assistant professor at INRS and a team member. “This is also a wonderful collaboration between research teams that will strengthen the expertise on mineral carbonation (storage of CO2 into a rock or a solid form) in Canada.”

Vidéo produced by the University of British Columbia (UBC)

The work of Pr. Pasquier and his colleagues could drastically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of mining operations and result in the world’s first greenhouse gas neutral mine. The field trials build on more than a decade of research and will focus on new technologies that maximize the reaction between CO2 and magnesium silicate-rich mine tailings, the waste from mining nickel, diamond, platinum and others materials.

Carbonated tailings. Photo : Greg Dipple, UBC

In a natural process called carbon mineralization, CO2 reacts with magnesium silicate and hydroxide minerals in tailings. The reaction traps the greenhouse gas into a solid, cement-like mineral, where it can remain in a benign state for thousands of years or more.

“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,” explains Greg Dipple, project lead and professor at the Bradshaw Research Initiative for Minerals and Mining (BRIMM) at UBC.

“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.” 

Greg Dipple

Field trials will take place at the De Beers Group’s Gahcho Kué Diamond Mine in N.W.T. this summer and at a prospective nickel mine in B.C. in 2020. They will be supported by an additional $1.2 million in funding from De Beers Group, FPX Nickel Corp, Giga Metals Corp and Geoscience B.C. and is supported by the governments of B.C., Alberta, Yukon and N.W.T.

In the future, the team hopes to expand the technologies to include other types of rocks.

More information : UBC Press Release