Look around you.
The chair you sit on, the computer you’re working from, the mug you’re drinking from, or the smartphone device in your hand all comes from some sort of mined material.
Diamonds, one of the most valuable gemstones, are mined from a rock called kimberlite and sold internationally at a very high cost.
Mining is an intensive process that requires extraction of valuable materials or other geological materials from the Earth.
During the mining process, a high-volume of ‘mining waste” originates from the soils that are removed during the separation of materials.
These unwanted materials, sometimes known as tailings, are discarded and stored inside impoundments where they are left to sit for long periods of time.
But is there a way we can use “mining waste” to help our environment rather than harm it?
Amanda Stubbs, a Master’s Candidate at Trent University in the Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate program, wants to find out.
Currently, CO2 is entering the atmosphere at nearly twice the rate it is removed. This is not good for the planet – as CO2 is a major cause of climate change.
If we could find ways to emit CO2 at the same rate we capture it, this would mean better news for our planet.
Therefore, Amanda is looking for ways to remove CO2 at the mining industry scale.
She is trying to understand :
- The process of how mining waste can be used to capture and store harmful CO2 from the atmosphere.
- How much carbon can be stored in mine waste.
Her fieldwork takes place at the Venetia Diamond mine – one of the largest diamond mines in the world located in South Africa.
She is conducting laboratory experiments to help her understand:
- Geochemical and mineralogical processes related to CO2 mineralization – the process that traps and stores CO2 into mine waste
- How much CO2 can be stored in the wastes when they are exposed to wetting and drying cycles over long time periods
- The rate which CO2 is taken into mine waste under different conditions including mineralogy, water content, and surface area exposure
This could be revolutionary!
So far, her findings have found that the potential to reduce CO2 emissions produced at the Venetia Diamond Mine is very high. This means that some CO2 emitted at Venetia through the use of mining extraction equipment can be stored in the mining waste product at little to no additional cost.
However, it is still difficult to identify the perfect condition that can store the most CO2 in mining waste. As her research continues, Amanda will continue to identify solutions.
The mining industry is a large contributor to the rise in atmospheric CO2. It is important to develop strategies that will reduce miming emissions to help offset what is produced.
By improving the storage conditions of mining wastes, the carbon capture process has the opportunity to increase how much CO2 can be captured and can lead to a substantial reduction in emissions at an industry level.
This is a win-win for the planet – and a win-win for the mining industry to make use of the harmful mining waste!
Here is what Amanda has to say about her experience working at Trent University:
My time at Trent University has been an unforgettable experience as it has provided me with some of the best opportunities in my life. The faculty at Trent have continuously supported and encouraged me over the years to strive for what I want and help me become the best scientist I can be. There are so many great organizations through Trent, such as the International Institute for Environmental Studies, that help graduate students share their research and connect with individuals from around the world. Trent continues to show their dedication to students through their support, guidance, and experiences, and I am so thankful to be a part of an outstanding institution.