Canadian Mining Journal


ACID DRAINAGE: UBC identifies bacteria linked to acid mine runoff

KELOWNA, BC – Researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus have isolated micro-organisms that cause acid rock drainage at mines.

UBC Professor of engineering Deborah Roberts.

UBC Professor of engineering Deborah Roberts.

“Mining waste is an environmental concern in many parts of the world and currently costs a great deal of time and money to the companies that deal with it responsibly,” says Deborah Roberts, a professor of engineering. “Now that we have isolated the type of micro-organisms contributing to this issue, further research may help us manage them with antibiotics, like other bacterial infections.”

The two-year UBC study isolated three ty of sulphur oxidizing bacteria and two types of iron oxidizing microbes that are active at low temperatures and contribute to the rapid production of acid in mining waste.

As part of her study, Roberts examined numerous samples of tailings from mining projects in Alberta, focusing on the types of organisms present and how they behaved at different temperatures.

Roberts’ research aims to add a third treatment method to the mix, allowing mining waste to be returned to their natural state without ponds or caps.

Roberts’ study was recently published in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology.