Mining is a key economic sector in Canada contributing over $57 billion to gross domestic product (2014) and the source for vital minerals and metals that society depends on. Mining also has the potential to create disturbances that can impact terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. In Canada, environmental assessment (EA) is required to identify social and environmental risks before approval of a mine operation is given. The mining industry must continue to improve guidelines and protocols for EAs to secure mining as an environmentally sustainable and socially acceptable industry.
Genome BC is investing in research to address EA gaps in guidelines and protocols for successful ecosystem reclamation following a mine closure. A new research project, led by Dr. Lauchlan Fraser and co-led by Dr. Jon Van Hamme from Thompson Rivers University (TRU) will launch an innovative program of applied reclamation research that will work with industry associations, regulators and First Nations to improve efficiency and effectiveness of mine reclamation.
“Genomic technologies are new to the mining industry but the industry is very receptive to this new technology”, says Dr. Fraser, Professor of Biological Sciences, TRU and Canada Research Chair in Community and Ecosystem Ecology. “We are optimistic that examining soil microbial communities through the genomics lens will provide more answers and improve current protocol used by the mining industry.”
Drs. Fraser and Van Hamme have raised $250,000 in funding, through Genome BC’s Sector Innovation Program (SIP), to execute their research at four different BC mine sites: New Afton, Highland Valley Copper, Mt Polley and Bralorne. The project will incorporate genomic tools to further understand soil microbial communities and specifically how soil communities play a role into soil building, ecosystem function and heavy metal sequestration. In addition, the project expected to develop benchmarks for biodiversity through DNA barcoding.
“Genome BC is investing in industries that matter to BC,” says Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Sectors at Genome BC. “We believe that incorporating genomic analysis to environmental remediation will provide a clear competitive advantage to the companies that will adopt this technology in the mining sector.”
To learn more about this research or earn a greater understanding of genomics, join Genome BC at the BIG Little Science Centre in Kamloops tonight for a public talk from 7:00pm-8:30pm. This talk titled “Genomics, a powerful tool for the planet” will allow Drs. Fraser and Van Hamme to present their research and explain how genomics helps us understand and mitigate the impacts of mining. For information on this talk, visit: www.genomebc.ca/events or contact the BIG Little Science Centre directly at 250-554-2572