Theme 1 - Abandoned Mine Site Remediation

Theme goal: There are over 10,000 abandoned mines in Canada (Cowan and Mackasey 2006), often in remote locations. The magnitude and duration of the environmental impacts of mine wastes at abandoned sites is controlled by interactions between physical and biogeochemical processes. Mine wastes at abandoned mines commonly were deposited with minimal or no containment, and subsequently oxidized, leading to severe and extensive contamination of groundwater and adjacent surface-water bodies. The complexity of abandoned mine sites, and financial constraints due to the absence of a property owner, requires optimization of remediation strategies for these sites. The development of effective remediation strategies is dependent on understanding these interactions. The goals of this theme are: i) to develop rigorous conceptual models of the processes controlling solute release at abandoned mine sites, representative of base- and precious metal mining operations, through the application of emerging characterization techniques; ii) to use these conceptual models in conjunction with advanced numerical modelling techniques to guide the selection of remediation activities, with a focus on passive strategies suitable for implementation at remote sites; and iii) to evaluate the effectiveness of remediation actions previously implemented at abandoned mine sites.

Anticipated Outcomes: Research conducted in this theme will lead to the development of: i) a suite of complementary characterization tools for application at abandoned mine sites; ii) improved predictions of the magnitude and duration of contaminant release; iii) more rigorous assessments of the effectiveness of remediation steps previously implemented at abandoned mine sites; iv) assessments of the relative benefits of different remediation strategies, and the added benefit of implementation of complementary remediation approaches at remote, mine sites; and v) extrapolations of knowledge gained from studies at base- and precious-metal mines to other mine types (e.g., coal, U, diamond, oil sands).