University of Saskatchewan

April 18, 2014   

Partnering to Improve Mine Waste Management

Top: Jim Hendry (credit U of S); Bottom: Photo of water sampling at Key Lake Mine (credit Cameco Corporation)
January 26, 2012

For nearly two decades, University of Saskatchewan geoscientist Jim Hendry has worked to define the leading edge of environmental science, helping companies operate while protecting vital water supplies.

Whether the issue is managing metal contaminants in mine tailings, keeping potash brine and livestock waste out of groundwater, or planning long-term storage of nuclear waste, Hendry’s knowledge and that of his team is helping a wide range of industrial partners.

The work of Hendry and his team in collaboration with industry partners will be celebrated at a Jan. 31 “Evening of Innovation” event in Ottawa organized by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. The event will bring together industry leaders, parliamentarians and presidents of universities and colleges across Canada and will highlight the many ways in which universities are driving private sector innovation and helping to solve industry problems.

Since 1995, Hendry has held the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Industrial Research Chair in Environmental and Aqueous Geochemistry. In 2011, the chair was renewed for an unprecedented fourth time—providing nearly $4.6 million over five years.

A key partner in this research has been Cameco Corporation, one of the world’s largest uranium producers. This longstanding research collaboration to protect groundwater from both metal and radiological contaminants stored in uranium tailings ponds was recognized by NSERC in 2008 with the prestigious Synergy Award for Large Companies.

This collaboration combines Cameco’s knowledge of engineering and processing and Hendry’s expertise in the behaviour of these elements and their movement through water systems. Working with Cameco, Hendry’s team has developed innovative testing methods to identify contaminants such as arsenic, nickel, molybdenum and radium in uranium mine tailings.

This work has resulted in significant advances on how to manage, store and dispose of these contaminants while keeping them out of groundwater supplies. In fact, the research has set the standard for safe mine tailings management.

“This type of partnership between industry and the university research community is really the way of the future and the way we can advance knowledge in critical areas important to Canada and to the world at large,” says Pat Landine, Cameco’s chief geo-environmental engineer. “We look forward to continuing to work with University of Saskatchewan researchers to promote a clean environment and help us meet new regulatory requirements.”

To view an interview with Jim Hendry and his Cameco research partners, visit http://www.nserc.gc.ca/news/2008/p081018-UofSask.htm.

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