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Alberta Innovates transforms mine into green energy source

pauline cameron
|Sep 6|magazine9 min read

Alberta Innovates is set to join industry partners in contributing to a green energy source as it seeks to reclaim land at an Alberta coal mine.

As part of a unique clean technology demonstration project, it is hoped the initiative will provide a solution to unique challenges in Alberta regarding the accelerated closure of prairie coal mines and increased demand for the management of organic waste.

Environmental consulting firm, SYLVIS, has headed up the project under the BIOSALIX initiative. EPCOR Water services plans to take municipal waste from Edmonton and use it to replenish soil at Paintearth Mine, near Forestburg, which has become the first mine in Alberta to obtain a reclamation certification for land reclaimed after mining. The site has been provided by Westmoreland Mining to demo the process for growing willow crop, which can be used as a biomass feedstock for renewable energy sources. It is hoped that the mine’s annual production of 2.7mn tonnes could be expanded into more sustainable sources.

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The project is currently valued at US$10.5mn, according to a news release by Alberata Innovates on Tuesday 3 September 2019. SYLVIS, EPCOR and Westmoreland Mining are providing in kind services on top of existing funding. Alberta Innovates has contributed US$1.5mn to the project so far through its Alberta Bio Future (ABF) programme. Natural Resources Canada has promised US$3.8mn through its Clean Growth Programme and Emission Reduction Alberta has contributed a further US$2.1mn.

“The science, know-how and provincial support that Alberta Innovates brings to the BIOSALIX project is critical to its success and its delivery. With this support, SYLVIS and its partners are able to redefine mine reclamations, advance renewable energy development and help climate change mitigation through BIOSALIX in a way that can benefit Albertans and Canada as a whole,” said John Lavery, principal scientist at SYLVIS environmental services.

Alberta Innovates is a provincially funded corporation with a mandate to develop the province’s research and technology in core sectors of health, environment, energy and technology. Through their ABF programme, they aim to expand Alberta’s bioindustrial sector. Turning agricultural and forestry biowaste into advanced biochemicals, bioenergy and biomaterials will add value to an already abundant biomass resources within the province.

“This project is a fine example of how the circular economy works. We can help municipalities manage their organic waste, grow renewable feedstock for the production of bioenergy and reclaim expired mine sites – all at the same time,” said Steve Price, Alberta Innovates Executive Director of Bio-industrial Innovation.