Characterizing local plant materials as carbon substrates for passive water treatment systems

Mine closure is often accompanied by discharge of environmentally hazardous, metal-laden water that must be treated before release into the environment. Passive biological treatment systems offer an effective, low cost treatment alternative particularly in remote mine sites, such as those in Yukon. These treatment systems rely in part on the action of naturally occurring soil microbes to facilitate sequestration of metals in these systems. These microbial communities, however, require sources of carbon to grow and perform metabolic functions.

Project Overview

Several research studies have demonstrated that additions of complex carbon substrates in the form of biomass materials such as sawdust, hay, and farm manure can help improve the efficiency and longevity of passive treatment systems. The goal of this research project is to investigate the possible use of locally available biomass materials such as spruce chips, moss, willow, and sedges as sources of complex carbon substrates for passive treatment systems in Yukon.

The first phase of the project has two objectives. First, we will use laboratory methods to analyse the composition of selected biomass. Secondly, we will use lab-scale bioreactors to monitor the microbial breakdown of biomass materials in simulated mine water at low temperatures that would be typically encountered in Yukon.
Later phases of the project will include more detailed analysis of how the complex carbon substrates are broken down and into what products, an understanding of the microbial community development, and the ability to reduce metals concentrations from mine water discharge

Project Team

Nina Piggott Yukon Research Centre, Yukon College Advisory committee

Amelie Janin Yukon Research Centre, Yukon College

Dr. Al Gibb School of Construction and Environment, BCIT

Lorne Sampson School of Construction and Environment, BCIT


Yukon Mine Research Consortium

Alexco Resource Corp.

Capstone Mining Corp.

Casino Mining Corp.

Selwyn Chihong Ltd.

 Victoria Gold Corp.


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Yukon Mine Research Consortium