The Canadian Land Reclamation Association (CLRA), Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (OSSGA) and Ontario Mining Association (OMA) held the 2017 Ontario Land Reclamation and Rehabilitation Symposium and Field Trip on June 26-28 at the University of Guelph. In its ninth year, this event is dedicated to promoting excellence in a critical aspect of mining - the process of restoring land that has been mined to a natural state or repurposing it for other beneficial uses.
The 2017 symposium, attended by 108 delegates, brought together scientists, practitioners, educators, students, and government regulators committed to sharing the latest research, learning from each other and advancing new techniques of reclamation. For the first time, there was an added focus on the reclamation of aggregate sites, given the participation of the Ontario Stone Sand and Gravel Association. A full list of the speakers, posters and field trips can be found here.
An important feature of the symposia is the recognition of the winners of the annual Tom Peters' Memorial Mine Reclamation Awards. The industry award recognizes outstanding achievement in the field of land reclamation. Nominations may be made by companies, individuals or organizations with respect to their own work or work completed by others. In 2017, this prestigious award went to Agnico Eagle for the rehabilitation of the Coniagas No. 4 shaft in Cobalt, Ontario.
According to Bryan Tisch, a Senior Environmental Scientist at Natural Resources Canada's CanmetMINING and Vice President of the CLRA Ontario Chapter, "The winning project this year is a little different than what many might think of as conventional reclamation, because it relates to the safe rehabilitation of physical structures, rather than biological reclamation." He went on to explain, "The project showcases innovative rehabilitation techniques to safely restrict access to underground infrastructure, and to do so by preserving the heritage value associated with a headframe. Developed in close collaboration with stakeholders, including the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, the Cobalt Historical Society, the private owners of the building, and the community, the project is considered a success in terms of sustainable development, addressing health and safety, environmental and social concerns."
In addition to the industry award, the CLRA and OMA, together with Vale, present an annual bursary that acknowledges Tom Peters' commitment to students. The $5,000 student award (funded by Vale) goes to a student who shows outstanding achievement in the field of land reclamation. Students must be enrolled in full-time graduate studies and their research must be linked to mine reclamation activities at an Ontario mine site.
The winner this year was Jillian Bieser, who is completing her PhD at the University of Toronto, and whose work is centered on the development of sustainable soil amendments for use in mine tailing reclamation. Specifically, she is investigating the use of 'biochar', or wood-derived charcoal for use in the remediation of mines in the boreal forest zone of Northern Ontario. In order to investigate the use of biochar in mine reclamation, an OMA-supported field study was implemented in the fall of 2015 at the Goldcorp's Musselwhite Mine. The results of this study revealed that biochar application significantly increased native plant growth and establishment via soil nutrient enhancement and heavy metal sorption.
When referring to Ms. Bieser, her academic supervisor, Dr. Sean Thomas, said, "Of the students I've supervised, Jill is one of a couple who have a clearly expressed long-term interest in the pursuit of a career in mine reclamation. I think Jill has the capacity to continue in academia, and certainly a knack for teaching, but her heart is in restoration work. In sum, she has my strongest recommendation for the award."
It is the example of individuals like Jillian Bieser and companies like Agnico Eagle that will inspire others to pursue innovative approaches and excellence in mine reclamation. By facilitating the sharing of knowledge, research results and best practices, the Ontario Mine Reclamation Symposium serves to promote a better understanding of outstanding achievements in mine reclamation among Ontario's mining industry, the environmental community and the broader public.