In order to avoid an increase of the global temperature by two and half degrees by 2100, the scientific consensus is that society must achieve net negative emissions – in other words, pull more planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air than we produce.
According to University of British Columbia Bradshaw Initiative for Minerals and Mining professor Greg Dipple, the mining industry could become a major player in helping society achieve this goal. For over a decade, he has been researching a process in which tailings waste naturally draws CO2 from the air and traps it into new stone formations.
Dipple’s focus has been on how to accelerate and optimize the phenomenon and recreate it on a large scale at mine sites. Next year the findings of his research will be applied to active mines for the first time.
The research brings together five universities across Canada and Australia – UBC, the University of Alberta, Trent University, the University of Queensland and Bond University – and has been funded by mining companies, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council, Carbon Management Canada, the governments of British Columbia and Yukon, and Environment Canada.
CIM: How did you first notice carbon sequestration in mine tailings?
Dipple: It was total discovery science. Twelve years ago, we were visiting mine tailings piles to explore ways that waste could be used as a feedstock for high-temperature, high-pressure chemical reactors that would be used for accelerating a natural process called chemical weathering.
For the rest of this article: http://magazine.cim.org/en/environment/tailings-to-the-rescue-en/