Two Canadian mines are set to pilot a research project led by the University of British Columbia (UBC) that combats greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by locking carbon dioxide (CO₂) in mine waste tailings.

UBC says the technology could drastically reduce GHG emissions created by mining operations and establish the world’s first emission-neutral mine.

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The project is a collaboration between UBC, the University of Alberta, Trent University, and Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), along with three mining companies. It received $2m in funding from Natural Resources Canada’s Clean Growth Programme.

CO₂ reacts with magnesium silicate and hydroxide minerals on the surface of the tailings during the carbon mineralisation process. The reaction traps the GHG to bind the CO₂ from mine waste into a benign solid mineral similar to cement.

UBC Bradshaw Research Initiative for Minerals and Mining (BRIMM) project lead and professor Greg Dipple said: “We estimate that reacting just 10% of a mine’s waste stream could be more than enough to offset the annual carbon emissions produced by a mining operation.

“This generous funding from the government and support from our industry partners will allow us to move these technologies to a larger scale at active mine sites.”

Field trials are set to take place at the De Beers Group’s Gahcho Kué Diamond Mine in Northwest Territories, Canada, this year and at a prospective nickel mine in British Columbia next year.

The trial cost will be supported by an additional $1.2m in funding from De Beers, FPX Nickel, Giga Metals and Geoscience, as well as the respective governments associated with these projects.

FPX Nickel president and CEO Martin Turenne said: “We are particularly pleased to note that fieldwork on assessing the potential for carbon sequestration toward carbon-neutral mining is planned to include field study at our Decar nickel project in central British Columbia.”

The project aims to reduce GHG emissions associated with mine operations. Other benefits include stabilising tailings piles, trapping harmful metals, and reducing dust generated on mine sites.