A Kirkland Lake entrepreneur is discovering new green uses for what was once thought to be an industrial waste byproduct.
Brian Coghlan has the only licensed wood ash landfill in Ontario where he has stored more than 300,000 cubic metres of the material from the nearby Kirkland Lake Power co-generation plant.
The former Kirkland Lake town councillor believes ash has a myriad of recycled uses beyond just agricultural and horticultural applications where it's often used as a growth medium when mixed with top soil and fertilizer.
"The beauty of this waste material is that it can be used for environmental cleanup," said Coghlan, who established Wood Ash Inc. in 2002.
Through his collaborations with university researchers, Coghlan has high hopes the ash can find regular use in mine tailings rehabilitation, acid mine drainage, hydrocarbon removal of contaminated groundwater, and possibly even gold extraction.
University of Toronto researchers are using his ash to conduct plant growth trials at Goldcorp's Porcupine Gold Mines in Timmins and at the Musselwhite Mine near Pickle Lake.
A Goldcorp spokesperson said it's too early to comment on the results but Coghlan said he's getting back good reports.
Coghlan got into the business while working in project management and licensed a disposal site for Kirkland Lake Power.
The utility had disposed of the ash in the municipal landfill where it was plowed into the garbage as covering material.
At his aggregate pit, east of Kirkland Lake, Coghlan receives about 25,000 cubic metres of ash a year and basically stockpiles it.
The ash is classified as a non-hazardous material but he still requires a provincial government-approved landfill certificate of approval.
For agricultural use or any food chainrelated applications, he contracts someone to screen the material. Otherwise, the product can be spread in the same condition as he receives it.
Since it's being used at the research stage, no special permitting is needed from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, but eventually he would like to segue into larger reclamation projects.
Besides being applied to help vegetation grow quicker, the ash contains 38 per cent carbon--known as biochar--and its high pH level will neutralize acidic soil and acid mine drainage from tailing ponds.
University of Quebec-Rouyn researchers used his ash in a large biofilter field experiment.
Acid mine drainage was flowed through a geotextile-lined trench filled with wood...