The distances between points of interest in the Yukon are vast, but those day-long drives gave mining executive Doug Eaton time to think. He has thought about a lot of things, including the carbon footprint of fossil fuel-burning electricity generators used to power remote mines.
“We don’t get much sun, and the wind is variable, so there aren’t a lot of viable alternatives,” said Eaton, president and CEO of Strategic Metals. “I wanted to come up with a solution that had the social license needed to develop a project.” He was also pondering ways to convert the acidic waste from gold and silver mines into a stable, benign form that could simply be harmlessly shovelled back into the ground.
“The Faro lead-zinc mine was developed back in the ’60s — in the way that mines were run back then — and the company went into bankruptcy,” said Eaton. Cleaning up the notoriously polluted Yukon mine site could cost the Canadian government as much as $800 million, according to a report by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
Because the acid rock drainage is often loaded with iron-based minerals, Eaton thought that captured carbon dioxide emissions could supply the carbon atom required to convert iron sulphides into iron carbonate, a relatively innocuous mineral called siderite.
“The more I thought about it, the more I thought it should work,” he said. Eaton put UBC professor Lee Groat to work to solve the problem.
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