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A research collaboration between universities and mining companies to capture carbon in mine tailings has been boosted by a federal government grant.
Natural Resources Canada has awarded $2 million to the University of British Columbia-led project, while several industry members have contributed an additional $1.2 million.
The funding will allow testing of the carbon capture techniques at De Beers Group's Gahcho Kue diamond mine in the Northwest Territories this year, and a prospective nickel mine in 2020.
"It's allowing us to take things we've been doing in the lab for the last several years and move them into field trials," said project lead Greg Dipple, a professor at UBC's Bradshaw Research Initiative for Minerals and Mining.
The project aims to accelerate the natural reaction that happens when certain minerals come in contact with carbon dioxide and converts it in a solid carbonate mineral.
Testing at the Gahcho Kue mine will involve pumping carbon dioxide through a pipe into a pile of blended mining waste rock, known as tailings, to test the technique in real-world conditions.
Dipple said a nickel mine in Australia has already shown to be capturing about 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide naturally, so the idea is to make small changes at mines to increase the process at a reasonable cost.
"We're looking at how one can do modest changes to how a mine is designed, and how materials are handled, so we really are targeting the less than $50 a tonne cost for the first deployments."
The research collaboration is also testing out the technique at a De Beers mine in South Africa.
De Beers, which said $675,000 of the government funding would go to tests at its mine, said the funds would help accelerate the project.
UBC says industry funding partners for the research include De Beers Group, FPX Nickel Corp., Giga Metals Corp and Geoscience B.C.