Terratec and Vale win award for exemplary biosolids management

Canada’s forerunners in environmental solutions, Terratec Environmental (a division of Terrapure) and Brazil’s Vale (NYSE:VALE) have been awarded 2018’s Exemplary Biosolids Management Award by the Water Environment Association of Ontario (WEAO).

The recognition went for their novel approach to mine reclamation management, which has been acknowledged to set out to solve both municipal and mining problems in a sustainable, cost-effective manner.

Terratec has developed a distinctive new option for managing biosolids during the winter season – a time when farmland use is prohibited and storage options are scarce. In place of the casting off of nutrient-rich soil and precious groundwater loss through incineration or landfill, the primary focus of this joint initiative was to instead facilitate biosolid application to mine-impacted land to minimize environmental injury.

Municipal Sewage Biosolids (MSB) are the biologically treated, quality controlled, by-products of the municipal sewage treatment process. Credit: Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Mine closure is one of the biggest prices the environment pays in the mining enterprise, so coming up with a canopy system to restore the mining-impacted land to its natural condition is of invaluable importance, making Terratec’s innovation a considerable contribution to the field.

Jeff Newman, Terratec’s Director of Business Development, explains that the biosolids program is a forerunner in the Ontario mining industry. “The industry is now identifying biosolids as a key strategy in mine closure scenarios.”

Newman rates it a win-win, saying that municipalities get an off-season biosolids management alternative, whilst mining companies enjoy an effective tailings cover system.

Terrapure and Vale Canada worked hand in hand to kick-start the project at their Copper Cliff tailings area in Greater Sudbury. Despite numerous previous attempts at remediating the tailings sites, Vale had been faced with sky high prices and minimal success. Biosolids later provided massive cost relief from the conventional approach — which encompassed extraction and transportation of virgin soil from adjoining land. The result – a guaranteed solution to mine reclamation challenges.

Copper Cliff tailings area. Credit: Northern Ontario Business

Since the project’s physical inception in April 2014, Vale has recorded a marked increase in plant cover as well as overall vegetation health, and with that a clear influx of fauna previously lost to the area. 23,000 dry tonnes (approx. 80,000 wet tonnes) of biosolids have been diverted from disposal, and a hundred and fifty hectares of mine-damaged areas are again capable of breathing life to its natural inhabitants.

The project’s success has many other mining groups jumping on the bandwagon – a prime example being the government-run Kam Kotia reclamation site in Timmins. Additionally, IAMGOLD and Terratec have aligned to implement a biosolids application program at the Chester Mine site in Ontario.

President of the WEAO, John Presta (left) presenting award to Terratec's Director of Business Development, Jeff Newman (right). Credit: Vale Canada