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Crop trials assess use of tailings beds in biomass production

March 7, 2016 - A long-term research project at Laurentian University is showing promise in using mine tailings to grow crops for biomass.

Over the last three to four years, Peter Beckett and Graeme Spiers, both associate professors at Laurentian University in Sudbury, have headed up the project, which examines the science behind using waste pulp and paper material, over top of mine tailings fields, to produce crops that could eventually be harvested and manufactured into biomass pellets.

“The whole idea, essentially, is, rather than just taking the tailings and wasteland at mine sites and putting grass down, to do something useful with them,” says Beckett, who’s also a founding member of Sudbury’s VETAC (Vegetation Enhancement Technical Advisory Committee). “In this case, it’s to try and see whether we could grow crops that one could make into energy fuels.”

Researchers have partnered with Glencore and Vale in Sudbury and Goldcorp in Timmins, which have provided the tailings sites. Wood waste has been brought in from paper mills to top the tailings with organic material, and a local farmer has provided the agricultural equipment and expertise.

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