In the decades-long efforts to re-green the Sudbury basin, Vale Canada is reporting its Copper Cliff Tailings Project using biosolids is continuing to be successful.
So successful, the groundbreaking project recently won an award and plans are in the works to apply it to other reclamation projects.
The Copper Cliff Tailings Project, a joint effort by Vale and Terrapure's environmental solutions provider Terratec, has been running for about five years and continues to show positive and even surprising results.
"We are doing this for two reasons, dust control, and covering the area with vegetation for long-term closure plans," said Glen Watson, superintendent of environment decommissioning and reclamation.
The mining company announced in June it won the Water Environment Association of Ontario's presented 2018 Exemplary Bio solids Management Award.
Watson said it shows how important the project is, as well as how much their innovation is appreciated by the industry and environmental protection groups.
The project started with Jeff Newman, director of business development, approaching Vale with the opportunity to start a pilot re-vegetation project in the Copper Cliff tailings.
Biosolids had not been used in mining reclamation before this.
The company was interested as the tailings are difficult to regreen naturally, due to the acidic and nutrient poor content and sandy texture of the material.
Watson explained the kind of biosolids they are using are known as class B, which includes treated sewage sludge. These are often used in farming operations in the summer for agricultural fertilizer. In the winter, however, they are sent to landfills.
"The problem with that is they are sending otherwise good material for re-greening to the landfill, and the amount of space available in landfills is limited," he said. "This diverts biosolids away from landfills and they have a year-round use."
The biosolids had to meet the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change regulations to get approval, as well as working with people living in the immediate area to ensure smell and leakage didn't effect them. Watson said there was some concern over shipping sewage into the area, but Vale had already developed an in-house solution to this that helped alleviate a waste problem of their own.
"We have a lot of wood pallets lying around from shipping," he said. "Instead of sending those off to be chipped or burned, we shredded them to be used as a carbon source and...