Extracting Solutions – Mining in Ontario

 

It’s not every day that you get to go into a mine (unless you’re a miner of course). So when we had the chance to go to Dynamic Earth in Sudbury, Ont., we couldn’t say no to that! As we descended into the mine, the Curiosity Crew saw and learned about mining through the ages. We even took a selfie underground!

mining

 

But what is it about the Greater Sudbury region that makes it the centre of mining? Two billion years ago, a giant meteorite struck the area. The force from the impact has created a formation known as the Greater Sudbury Basin and has made the area rich in ore deposits like copper and nickel. Ten thousand years ago, the first Aboriginal peoples used to quarry quartzite in the region and eventually discovered copper. The first Europeans who learned of the deposits were fur traders; they learned about it from the Ojibway in the 1870s. Sudbury itself was founded because of the discovery of copper and nickel deposits; as the construction of the railroad ended in November 1884, these deposits were discovered and Sudbury has grown ever since.

Mining has been and still is vital to the economy of Northern Ontario. But one of the unfortunate effects of mining has been the environmental damage. For example, acid pools form when rock waste from the mines are mixed with water. The energy used to operate the machinery required to extract ores often rely on diesel to function. So what can be done to make mining more environmentally friendly and more sustainable?

Thankfully, researchers in Ontario are working on making mining more sustainable and cost efficient. For example, Thomas Merritt at Laurentian University is using the genomes of fruit flies to understand the formation of acid. Also, Dean Millar studies the use of photo-voltaic solar panels to offset energy costs. Ontario’s population is continuing to grow and so is the demand for resources to sustain the economy. What is important is that the solutions to some of these problems are being studied right here, in Ontario.

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