Western Economic Diversification Canada

Western Economic Diversification Canada

September 30, 2011 12:37 ET

Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan Support Development of New Environmental Technology

SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN--(Marketwire - Sept. 30, 2011) - The federal and provincial governments will support Genome Prairie in working with the University of Saskatchewan, Contango Strategies Ltd. and Cameco Corporation on an initiative to develop and commercialize innovative technology that will help minimize environmental impacts and associated reclamation costs in uranium mining and milling industries.

The Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, and the Honourable Ken Cheveldayoff, Minister of First Nations and Métis Relations, on behalf of the Honourable Jeremy Harrison, Minister of Enterprise and Minister Responsible for Trade, today announced a combined investment of almost $1.5 million towards the creation of new software for Microbial Assessment for Value-Added, Environmental, and Natural Resources (MAVEN).

"Our Government's first priority is the economic recovery and we recognize that it will increasingly depend on knowledge and innovation, which are engines of economic growth and job creation," said Minister Yelich. "This project will assist in the reduction of operational costs associated with mining reclamation, ultimately resulting in substantial productivity improvements in the mining industry."

MAVEN software will allow full analysis and application of efficiencies to enable the effective employment of microbes to absorb contaminants and significantly reduce the costs of reclamation. This technology is expected to provide significant savings and strengthen competitiveness within the uranium mining and milling industry, and be transferrable to other resource extraction, environmental, human health and agricultural sectors.

"Our rich uranium deposits and considerable mining sector make Saskatchewan an ideal location to develop and commercialize this innovative assessment tool," said Minister Cheveldayoff. "We live in a world that is increasingly focused on environmental responsibility and this tool has the potential to affect this area of concern to the benefit of the mining sector, broader industry and the people of this province."

In addition to economic benefits, the creation and commercialization of this software will help reduce the environmental impacts of uranium mining and milling by the efficient use of naturally-occurring micro-organisms to offset reclamation efforts.

"We are pleased to have the support of the federal and provincial governments for this important project," said Dr. Reno Pontarollo, Chief Scientific Officer of Genome Prairie. "By using genomics as a tool, we hope to better understand how microscopic organisms can make uranium mining and milling operations more economically and environmentally efficient."

A stronger West. A stronger Canada

Backgrounder

Microbial Assessment for Value-Added, Environmental and Natural Resources (MAVEN) Project

Now more than ever, mining industries are adopting a policy of greater transparency, accountability and environmental and social responsibility. With the diverse environmental impacts associated with the resource extraction process, the uranium industry has become even more proactive and transparent, looking for improved and more environmentally responsible methods of extraction, milling, and remediation. The $1.7 million MAVEN project will employ and improve on genomic approaches to identify the complex communities of microbes associated with the uranium mining, milling and remediation operations. By using these state of the art techniques, MAVEN researchers will also be able to explore how the natural mixed microbial populations interact with each other and their environment. It is anticipated that this approach will identify microbes that have not previously been described and that could be put to practical use by the uranium industry to sustainably enhance the extraction and milling processes and to reduce the time and cost of remediation of mine sites and effluents.

Long-term benefits to industry will be gained through reductions in compliance costs, as well as cost savings from efficiency gains derived from new technology that enhances prevention and mitigation and enables sustainable production. Uranium operations might therefore be able to increase production while remaining within regulatory guidelines. Additionally, costs of decommissioning may be reduced as natural attenuation processes can be exploited. It is the intention for MAVEN to enhance operations defined in the province of Saskatchewan's integrated strategy to expand uranium exploration, mining and milling in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner (Government of Saskatchewan website; www.er.gov.sk.ca/uranium-development).

Dr. Reno Pontarollo, Chief Scientific Officer of Genome Prairie, will lead a multifaceted team of computer experts, industry representatives and scientists who will work together to develop cutting-edge scientific techniques and software programs which allow interpretation of the real and potential positive impacts of microscopic organisms on mining operations. Samples of sediments from Cameco's Key Lake mine operation will be analyzed to gain a better understanding of the microscopic organisms. Software will be designed in cooperation between the laboratories of Dr. Tony Kusalik (University of Saskatchewan) and Dr. Monique Haakensen (Contango Strategies Ltd.).

The MAVEN project will be managed by Genome Prairie, a not-for-profit organisation that collaborates with government, academia and industry to lead large-scale genomics research projects in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Funding partners include Western Economic Diversification Canada ($734,893), Enterprise Saskatchewan ($734,893), Cameco Corporation ($209,196, cash and in-kind) and Contango Strategies Ltd. ($80,000, in-kind).

Contact Information

  • Nicholas Insley
    Office of the Minister
    Western Economic Diversification
    nicholas.insley@wd.gc.ca
    (613) 954-1042

    Joanne Johnson
    Director, Public Affairs
    Enterprise Saskatchewan, Regina, Saskatchewan
    (306) 787-7967

    Carol Reynolds
    Director, Communications and Government Relations
    Genome Prairie, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
    (306) 241-9033

    Toll-Free Number: 1 888 338-WEST (9378)
    Web Site: WD is online at www.wd-deo.gc.ca