Can wastewater and tailing ponds from mines ever be safe enough for swimming?

Most people think of Canada’s Arctic region as a bastion of pristine environmental purity, not the home of a booming mining industry. The work of Celine Guéguen, a biogeochemistry researcher, makes it possible to imagine a world in which it could be both.

“I work on new, cost-effective, and green technologies to remove pollutants from the environment,” she says. “I’m interested in biotechnology based on microorganisms and locally produced wood waste. We can use these tools to monitor and reduce the negative impacts of human activity.”

She has a particular interest in clean water, which she identifies as “a critical issue for everyone.” She studies how dissolved organic matter interacts with other substances in water. The interactions can have dramatic effects on Arctic rivers. These rivers have unusually high levels dissolved organic material, which absorb heavy metals. These metals then become part of the food chain, creating widespread environmental havoc.

Guéguen recognizes that mining companies will be much more open to green solutions if those technologies are affordable. Mining tends to leave pollutants like heavy metals behind – bioremediation offers the most promising path to reduce this environmental footprint, while also reducing overall costs.

Mines create vast quantities of wastewater that must be treated before being reintroduced into the environment. Guéguen combines cutting-edge theoretical research and practical applications to create scalable solutions – in other words, what works on a small scale in the lab must also be effective on an industrial scale.

Celine Gueguen

Céline Guéguen

Trent University

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