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Waste Management and Beyond | Innovation Through Biological Processes

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Waste Management and Beyond | Innovation Through Biological Processes

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Microbes can be found on mining sites and biological processes have been developed over the years to improve cost and safety of different mining operations with positive impacts on the environment. This session is for anyone who would like to learn more about genomics and innovative biological processes with concrete examples on mining sites.


Julie Champagne, Research Project Manager, National Research Council, Energy, Mining and Environment

Nadia Mykytczuk, Associate Professor and Industrial Research Chair, Laurentian University

Genomics and Life in the Mine

Advances in DNA sequencing have revolutionized the field of microbial ecology, making it possible to monitor the environment through microbial diversity. These tools are rapidly changing, and it is important for scientists to clearly explain how "microbiome" data can be applied to understanding environments. We will look at applications in mining and how microbial diversity monitoring can help determine if materials are amenable to biomining, or if remediation treatments are having their desired effect. Combined with existing environmental monitoring analysis, genomic analyses can contribute to assessing the impacts of mining activities on the environment and to work towards prevention rather than damage control, thus helping to lower the costs related to environmental responsibility and social acceptability. We will summarize how the mining sector can develop "best practices" for incorporating genomics tools and data into their operations.

Charles Greer, Group Leader, National Research Council Canada

Mine Site Rehabilitation: Helping Plants Help Us

The remediation and rehabilitation of mine sites presents a number of significant challenges, one of which is the revegetation of mine site waste rock and tailings sites, often contaminated with heavy metals and organic and inorganic compounds. A cost-effective approach to address this is to revegetate mine wastes to reduce the mobility of inorganic contaminants and enhance the biodegradation of organic contaminants, leading to ecosystem recovery. Mining sites typically have poor substrates for the growth of plants and yet in many instances, certain plants often encroach these areas. The purpose of this work was to inventory native plants growing on a northern mine site and to characterize (using environmental DNA sequencing) their microbiomes (microbes inhabiting the surface and interior of the plants) towards determining whether certain microbes are beneficial to the plants, facilitating their ability to survive and grow on these challenging sites. In addition, once potential microbes had been identified from the sequence data, a high-throughput method for isolation of specific microbes (iCHIP) would be undertaken to obtain individual isolates for potential inoculation into plants for future outplanting.

Based on the sequencing results, a number of potential beneficial microbes (focusing on bacteria) were identified based on their unique detection only on the disturbed sites. Following a literature review of these microbes, the iCHIP was used with a modified soil extract medium in an attempt to isolate individual strains of potential beneficial microbes. A total of 92 isolates were obtained and their identity was confirmed by DNA sequencing. They comprised numerous bacteria genera, including Massilia (30.4%), Pseudarthrobacter (20.7%), Ralstonia (14.1%), Pseudomonas (17.4%), Arthrobacter (8.7%), Polaromonas (2.17%), Rugamonas (4.35%), Sphaerotilus (1.09%), and Mucilaginibacter (1.09%). Current efforts are being directed at the Polaromonas jejuensis and Ralstonia eutropha isolations, as these are well-known bacteria with a high potential for being beneficial to plants.

Myriam De Ladurantaye-Noël, Process Engineer, Veolia Water Technology Canada

Biological nitrification assessment in extreme saline condition

A mine effluent contains a high salinity due to the site hydrogeological conditions and high ammonia concentration from the use of explosives in mine operation. Ammonia treatment in saline water remains a challenge and few technologies are available such as chemical and physical process (e.g. the break point chlorination, stripping). Biological treatment was intensively investigated in fresh water effluent and would seem to be simpler to operate. However, little information is available designing such a biological reactor in saline water.

A six-month biological reactor (Moving bed biological reactor, MBBR) trial was conducted on this highly saline mine effluent. The MBBR reactor was fed with ammonia concentration up to 50 mg N/L and with salinity up to 30 g/L. The behavior of the biomass growth in saline conditions as well as start-up strategies were the main focus of the development of this new MBBR application.

The saline water MBBR study validates the possibility to treat ammonia in a saline mine effluent and proved that the final effluent is not acutely lethal to the threespine stickleback. This paper presents the main findings related to the laboratory test.

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