Posts Categorized: News

Making pyrrhotite waste remediation pay for itself

Researchers at the University of Toronto are working on developing a bioleaching process to extract nickeliferous pyrrhotite waste from tailings ponds in the Sudbury area in order to remediate the land and recover up to $11 billion worth of nickel

University of Toronto researchers are working to develop a bioleaching process that could help mining companies reclaim tailings ponds and recover up to $11 billion worth of nickel from them in the process. Courtesy of Glencore

Bacterial mutants and hydrogen peroxide may be keys to reclaiming value from tailings ponds clean-up

By Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco (Article was originally published in CIM Magazine here. )

While the technology could offset the cost of remediating the tailings ponds, according to the researchers the process to extract nickel from pyrrhotite is complex. A combination of bacterial mutants and hydrogen peroxide may be key to not only remove reactive material from the tailings and leave behind a benign product, but to extract billions of dollars worth of nickel and other metals.

Lassonde Mineral Engineering Students take gold – 4 oz of gold

Winning Lassonde Mineral Engineering Team (Zawwar Ahmed (MinE Year 3), Dalton Veintimilla (MinE Year 4), Ice Peerawattuk (MinE Year 4) and Jihad Raya (MinE PEY)) with Candace MacGibbon, CEO of INV Metals (at centre).

This weekend, Zawwar Ahmed (MinE Year 3), Ice Peerawattuk (MinE Year 4), Jihad Raya (MinE PEY) and Dalton Veintimilla (MinE Year 4) successfully defended their first place title in the Goodman Gold Challenge (GGC) in Sudbury.

The GGC is a competition at Laurentian University that invites undergraduate students to assess three gold companies as investment opportunities. In teams of four, students recommend one of the three companies to a top-tier client.

The Lassonde Mineral Engineering team won the cash equivalent of four ounces of gold for their outstanding use of their academic and practical skills at the GGC.

Congratulations from the Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering. Keep up the good work!


Lassonde Pivot Point Event with Zita Cobb

An Unexpected Resource
Exploring mining’s complicated relationship with community

An invite-only evening with guest host Pierre Lassonde and special presentation by Zita Cobb, co-founder of the Shorefast Foundation and member of the Order of Canada.

Lessons from a dying island’s economy and the woman who had the courage to re-imagine a new future.


If you are interested in attending this event please reach out to:

Rachel Wallace
Strategic Development & Communications


Lassonde Mineral Engineering Team Places FIRST in 2018 Goodman Gold Challenge

Team members: Mark Umanec, Ice Peerawattuk, Marko Lopac and Dalton Veintimilla accepting their first place award at the 2018 Goodman Gold Challenge in Sudbury on January 28th.

Beating out competitors from the Schulich School of Business, Laurentian University, Queen’s University and the University of Kentucky, the Lassonde Mineral Engineering won first place in the 2018 Goodman Gold Challenge in Sudbury on January 28th, 2018.

The Goodman Gold Challenge is a hands-on investment mining management competition for business, geology and mining students across North America.  Applying their academic course work, students gain real-life experience interviewing three gold mining company CEOs on their respective current and future financial standings. The gold companies, currently trading on the TSX or TSX-V included: Wesdome, Nighthawk Gold Corp, and Sabina Gold & Silver Corp. Upon evaluation, each team recommended the gold company they thought would provide the best potential investment opportunity.

The winning 2018 Lassonde Mineral Engineering team members Mark Umanec, Ice Peerawattuk, Marko Lopac and Dalton Veintimilla presented their recommended investment deck to a panel of experts from RBC Global Mining & Metals Group, Kinross Gold, Canaccod Genuity, MNDM and Paul Martin, President & CEO of Detour Gold with David Harquail, President & CEO of Franco-Nevada.

“We want to thank Mike Chen (MIN 1T4) for helping us get Waterton Global Resource Management to sponsor our team financially and also giving us the chance to present our pitch to them and get feedback before we competed,” said Marko Lopac, 4th Year Lassonde Mineral Engineering student.

This is the first year the Lassonde Mineral Engineering team participated in the Goodman Gold Challenge however this is not their first title win in a case study challenge. The Lassonde Mineral Engineering team has had some recent great showings in national and international competition including: the Canadian Mining Games, the World Mining Competition and the OMA MINED Open Innovation Challenge. See below for some highlights:

1st Place: 2015 World Mining Competition

Team members: Matthew Hart, Blake Baek, Peter Miskiel and Daryl Li.

3rd Place: 2017 World Mining Competition

Team members: Mark Umanec, Marko Lopac, Romy Done and Icep Peerawattuk.

1st Place: Jackleg Challenge 2017 Canadian Mining Games

Team members: Marko Lopac and Jack Lindsay.

3rd Place: 2017 OMA MINED Open Innovation Challenge

Team members: Matthew Hart, Marina Reny, Yoko Yanagamura and Justin Samardzic.

Elements of bio-mining: Engineering collaboration aims to turn mine waste into valuable metals

  • Mine drainage

    An industry-academic collaboration led by U of T Engineering professors is studying the use of microorganisms to treat mine waste in tailings ponds. The researchers also hope to extract valuable metals that could offset the cost of processing. (Photo: mine drainage- Sean Caffrey)

  • Mine drainage

    An industry-academic collaboration led by U of T Engineering professors is studying the use of microorganisms to treat mine waste in tailings ponds. The researchers also hope to extract valuable metals that could offset the cost of processing. (Photo: mine drainage- Sean Caffrey)

  • Mine drainage

    An industry-academic collaboration led by U of T Engineering professors is studying the use of microorganisms to treat mine waste in tailings ponds. The researchers also hope to extract valuable metals that could offset the cost of processing. (Photo: mine drainage- Sean Caffrey)

 Originally posted on U of T Engineering News by Tyler Irving

They are invisible to the naked eye, able to withstand extreme conditions and capable of breathing rocks. They are the microbes that thrive in tailings ponds at mining sites around the world, and a team of Canadian researchers believes they are the key to transforming waste material into something much more valuable.

“There are bugs that thrive on metabolizing sulfur, others on metabolizing iron,” says Professor Vladimiros Papangelakis (ChemE). “If we can control such biochemical reactions, we could both remediate the waste and recover valuable metals that could pay for the cost of processing.”

Papangelakis, along with Professor Elizabeth Edwards (ChemE) is leading the Elements of Bio-mining project, a multidisciplinary collaboration between U of T Engineering, Laurentian University, and the University of British Columbia (UBC), as well as a number of technology, engineering and mining companies, including Glencore, Vale, Teck, Barrick and Hatch.

For a full list of team members and partners, visit the Elements of Bio-mining website

Together, the team is developing ways to process a number of different types of material left over from mining activities across Canada, from nickel mines in Sudbury, Ont. to coal mines in British Columbia. They aim to understand how native microorganisms at these sites convert chemicals one form to another, and how they might encourage certain beneficial reactions while discouraging others.

Elements of Bio-mining team

Members of the Elements of Bio-Mining project team at the In the Footsteps of Sudbury’s Minersexhibit at Science North in Sudbury, Ont. (Photo: Sean Caffrey)

For example, nickel refining produces tailings, which are rich iron sulfide. When exposed to the oxygen in the atmosphere, chemical reactions begin to convert the sulfides into sulphuric acid. This process — known as Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) — is catalyzed by microorganisms that live in the rainwater or melting snow that washes over the tailings.

The sulphuric acid can dissolve any nickel that remains in the tailings, as well as other metals such as copper and zinc and even toxic elements like arsenic, selenium, cadmium, mercury. Because of its toxic and acidic nature, tailings water cannot be discharged into the environment unless it is collected and treated. Currently, these tailings sit in enormous ponds around the mine sites — the water covers the tailings, acting as an oxygen barrier and slowing the AMD process.

Papangelakis and his collaborators hope to treat these tailings using bioreactors, vessels that enable them to control the temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen levels and other culture conditions. One idea is to encourage the growth of organisms that would convert the sulfide not into sulfuric acid, but into elemental sulfur, which may have some value if recovered. At the same time, the metal-rich wastewater could be captured and refined to recover metals, potentially providing a revenue source to offset the cost of treatment.

Other members of the team are looking at the waste rock that was separated before the refining process. Here sulfur is less of a problem, but there are still potentially valuable metals that could be recovered. Professor Nadia Mykytczuk of Laurentian University is studying ways to encourage bacteria to selectively dissolve these metals from heaps of rock, a process known as in-situ bio-leaching.

“There is a large diversity of organisms out there that we are only starting to understand,” says Mykytczuk. “Some of them like oxygen, but others thrive under anaerobic, or oxygen-free conditions. We’re looking at the whole range of possibilities, and once we find something promising, we can decide how to address specific types of waste.”

A third branch of the team is focusing on waste from coal mines, which is often high in selenium. Though a necessary nutrient in small amounts, too much selenium can be toxic to many forms of life; for example, it can interfere with the development of fish embryos, reducing the number of viable adults in the next generation.

“There are some microorganisms that can actually use selenate, the dissolved form of selenium, for energy,” says Professor Sue Baldwin of UBC, another one of the project partners. “They take the selenate and turn it into elemental selenium, which precipitates out as nanoparticles attached to the organism’s cells. In this form, it’s no longer dissolved and you can just filter it out of the water.”

Baldwin points out that selenium is just one of many pollutants that exist in waste from coal mining. And as with nickel mining, there may also be valuable metals or other materials that could be recovered through biochemical transformations.

Papangelakis says that there may be up to $7 billion dollars worth of nickel alone locked in the tailings from Sudbury’s mines. “The question is, can this value be recovered in a way that makes the treatment and remediation process economically viable?” he says.

In addition to the universities and the industrial partners, the project has attracted support from a number of research funding agencies, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Genome British Columbia and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Most recently, the project received $4 million from the Ontario Research Fund.

“It’s a very challenging problem that needs to be solved,” says Papangelakis. “But we have assembled a very good knowledge base, with experienced people in mining, chemistry, biochemistry and process engineering. There will be cross-fertilization and new ideas, which will create a springboard to understand new science and launch initiatives we haven’t thought of yet. To me, this is the most exciting part.”

U of T Mining and Mineral Engineering ranks top 10 in world

Psychology research at the University of Toronto is ranked second in the world – just after Harvard University – in a new ranking of subjects by the independent Shanghai Ranking Consultancy.

In addition to psychology, U of T also ranked third in medical technology, fifth in public health, sixth in human biological sciences and ninth in biotechnology, finance, and mining & mineral engineering in the report.

The 2017 Shanghai Subject Ranking, released earlier this week, surveyed more than 500 top global universities in 52 subject areas.

Overall, U of T ranked in the top 25 for 25 different subject areas – only four universities were ranked in more subjects (Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley and MIT).

Among Canadian universities, U of T was ranked first (or tied) in 28 of the 46 subjects it was ranked in.

“It’s wonderful to see the continued recognition that the University of Toronto is one of the few institutions in the world with strength across the full breadth of areas of scholarship,” said Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president of research and innovation.

The 2017 Shanghai Subject Ranking looks at natural sciences, engineering, life sciences, medical sciences and social sciences, with the majority of its subjects falling under engineering. It uses bibliometric data as the source for the majority of its indicators, complemented by data on faculty honours and awards in selected subjects.

Each of the subjects have a differing mix of indicator weightings, thresholds for inclusion and depth to the rankings depending on the characteristics of the data.

The Shanghai Ranking Consultancy is also the publisher of the influential Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), commonly known as the Shanghai Ranking. This year, the ARWU ranked U of T 27th in the world.

In March, a similar report on global subject rankings by software company QS Quacquarelli Symonds placed U of T in the top 10 globally in nursing (6th), sports-related subjects (6th), anatomy & physiology (8th), geography (9th), computer science (10th) and education (10th). Medicine, anthropology and religious studies just missed the top 10 list, landing in 11th place.

Among Canadian universities, U of T was first in all five of the broad subject areas and first in 32 of the 43 subjects in which the university was ranked by the QS World University Rankings by Subject.

Globally, the results place the University of Toronto among the world’s elite institutions in all five subject areas and in 43 of the 46 subjects surveyed. The university scored even higher when public higher education institutions alone were counted in the subject areas ranked.

Overall, the University of Toronto continues to be the highest ranked Canadian university and one of the top ranked public universities in the four most prestigious international rankings: Times High Education, QS World Rankings, Shanghai Ranking Consultancy and National Taiwan University.

This article originally appeared on U of T News.

Lassonde Institute of Mining Board Advisor, Bert Wasmund named a Member of the Order of Canada

This article originally appeared on U of T Engineering Alumni News

U of T Engineering alumni George Myhal (IndE 7T8) and Bert Wasmund (ChemE PhD 6T6) have been named Members of the Order of Canada, two of 99 extraordinary Canadians to receive one of the nation’s highest civilian honours.

Myhal was named a Member of the Order of Canada for his achievements as an investment and finance leader, and for his philanthropic contributions, notably in support of innovation in engineering.

Myhal arrived in Canada with his family from Western Ukraine in 1958, and is now president and CEO of Partners Value Investments Inc. Previously, he was a senior managing partner and the chief operating officer of Brookfield Asset Management Inc. He has also served for more than a decade on the University of Toronto’s Governing Council and the Faculty’s Dean’s Strategic Council, offering his advice and perspective on a variety of topics and initiatives. As an early supporter of the Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CEIE), Myhal’s support was instrumental in building momentum for this dynamic new space. The main foyer of the CEIE will be named in Myhal’s honour in recognition of his pace-setting $5-million gift. Myhal continues to be a valued advisor to Dean Cristina Amon.

Wasmund, a world-renowned leader in metallurgical plant engineering and design has served the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and the Faculty with distinction for more than 25 years. As a generous philanthropist, Wasmund continues to support his alma mater through research initiatives and scholarships. Wasmund has also enabled many research partnerships between Hatch, a Canadian firm serving the global mining and metallurgical industry, and U of T, including the Hatch Industrial Research Chair in Electromagnetic Processing of Materials. Wasmund was inducted into the Engineering Hall of Distinction in 2006.

“I am delighted that two of our most distinguished engineering alumni have been recognized for their visionary leadership in advancing engineering, innovation and education in Canada,” said Dean Amon. “On behalf of the Faculty, I congratulate them on this prestigious and richly deserved honour.”

Created in 1967, the Order of Canada recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. Appointed by Gov. Gen. David Johnston, and conferred in a ceremony at Rideau Hall, this year’s investees also include His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, machine learning researcher Yoshua Bengio, actor Mike Myers and soccer star Christine Sinclair.

Job Announcement: Associate Director, Lassonde Institute

The Lassonde Mining Hub is an industry outreach initiative of the Lassonde Institute of Mining.

The Associate Director of the Lassonde Institute will strategically accelerate industry engagement, foster industry relevant collaborative research and deepen industry connections to FASE that will ensure the ongoing viability and success of the Lassonde Mining Hub.

Complete position description



GeoE alumna honoured by the Professional Engineers of Ontario

Samantha Espley (GeoE 8T8) has been named a 2017 award winner of the Ontario Professional Engineer Awards.
Espley, currently Technical Director, Vale Base Metals, is a founding member of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) and has also served on boards and held leadership roles with WISE, the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (CIM), Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO) and the Canadian Mining Research Network (CAMIRO). Samantha received the Trailblazer Award, Women in Mining in 2013 and the 2013 Engineering Alumni Mid-Career Award from the Faculty.
Please join us as we congratulate Samantha on receiving this high honour. She will received the Engineering Medal in the management category at the annual gala in November 2017.

Prof. Erin Bobicki receives a Connaught New Researcher Award

Prof. Erin Bobicki with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering is one of 56 faculty members at U of T who is receiving the Connaught New Researcher Award. She is receiving the award to further her research into the reduction of water and energy use in mineral processing.

The annual awards are only provided to U of T assistant professors within the first five years of a tenured-stream academic appointment to help them establish strong research programs. This year the Connaught Fund is awarding a total of $994,000 to 56 researchers across a range of disciplines. See below for a full list of recipients.

Read more>>

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