Mining waste environments: globally significant and growing biogeochemical hotspots ,

Dr. Lesley Warren, Lassonde Institute of Mining, University of Toronto

November 23, 2018

Talk abstract: Globally, extractive industries are estimated to produce 7.2 billion tons of waste and use 7-9 billion m of water; creating one of the fastest growing and least well studied biogeochemical contexts on the planet. Tailings, containing reactive sulfur, iron, nitrogen and carbon compounds, represent the largest global mining environmental liability. Currently, it is difficult for mines to design tailings impoundments or develop effective management and reclamation approaches, because the microbial processes that generate impacts remain a black box. However, as mining landscapes continue to grow world-wide, the fundamental lessons learned in these contexts are also required to better inform our understanding of global biogeochemical cycling. Here, I will present results from both metal and oil sands mining contexts, where we have begun to address this knowledge gap through the joint application of genomics and geochemistry. Research to date provides fascinating glimpses of extensive and often surprising biogeochemical cycling within these environments, as well as distinctive microbial communities that interactively shape biogeochemical outcomes.

Research interests Dr. Warren holds the Claudette MacKay-Lassonde Chair in Mineral Engineering and is the director of the Lassonde Institute of Mining. She is an applied geochemist and molecular microbiologist. Her main focus is applying emerging molecular biological techniques to mining contexts to explore the roles of bacteria in affecting water quality. This research information produced develops new tools to enhance environmentally sound practices in the mining industry.

2018 – Dr. Lesley Warren