CERM3 and its contribution to providing sustainable research for the mining industry

Gold 2003
J.A. Meech M. Scoble, W. Wilson, R. Pakalnis, B. Klein, M. Veiga, R. Hall, M. Ghomshei, S. Baldwin, L. Lavkulich, C. Suttle, J. Mortensen, D. Weis, L. Smith, K. Hall, D. Dixon, D. Tromans, D. Dreisinger, S. Dunbar, M. Pawlik, M. Morin, W. Cullen, etc.
Abstract On July 26, 2000, the Canada Foundation for Innovation announced an award of $1.3 M dollars for The Centre for Environmental Research in Minerals, Metals and Materials, CERM3, at The University of British Columbia. Additional funding was also provided by the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund ($1.3 M) and the UBC Stewart Blusson Fund ($0.7 M). Annual industrial grants and contracts are providing support funding for the on-going research projects. Corporate membership in CERM3 entitles each participant to a seat on the technical advisory committee (TAC) as well as access to the five laboratory facilities currently under construction. Both the federal and provincial governments will also participate in the TAC through NRCan-CANMET and the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines, respectively. CERM3’s mission is:

to develop innovative methods to deal with environmental problems created by mining activity;
to promote sustainable development as a hallmark of management decision-making;
to produce mining and processing engineers with the required environmental skills; and
to enhance the image of mining in society as a vibrant and necessary component of a modern economy and society which disturbs the environment for the benefit of mankind.

CERM3 brings together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from over 12 departments at The University of British Columbia (UBC) to work on mining-related environmental problems. These include: chemistry; soil sciences; chemical and biological engineering; earth and ocean sciences; microbiology; civil engineering; electrical engineering; metals and materials engineering; mechanical engineering; mining and mineral processing, the Westwater Research Centre; the Institute for Resources and the Environment; and the School of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. The centre intends to interact with scientists from industry, governments and other universities across Canada and around the world. CERM3 aims to become Canada’s leading environmental research facility for the mining industry. This paper describes the evolution of CERM3 and its coordinated multi-disciplinary approach to mining and the environment. Some of CERM3’s research projects include:

developing new protocols for environmental analyses to provide consistent and reliable assays;
isolating a natural virus for Thiobacillus ferrooxidans and other bacteria responsible for acid rock drainage (ARD);
designing bio-remediation and adsorption techniques for mine effluents;
promoting and enhancing the use of hydrometallurgy to reduce environmental pollution;
examining new approaches to comminution to decrease energy consumption;
developing a magnetically levitated hoisting system to reduce the footprint of a mine operation;
building a state-of-the-art supercomputer network laboratory for mine/mill simulations; and
designing intelligent bulkheads to seal tunnels following mine closure to survive for 1000 years.

This latter project involves the establishment of a research station at the Britannia mine site, 45 km north of Vancouver, which will provide a full-scale facility to design the “Millennium Plug” and contribute directly to the solution to one of North America’s worst ARD-contaminated sites.

Keywords: Environmental research, Minerals, Metals, Materials, Mining, Sustainable development.

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