U of S engineering professor receives national recognition

Lee Barbour, an oil sands reclamation expert at the U of S and a professor in the Department of Civil and Geological Engineering, has been elected a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE).

Barbour, a civil engineer with more than 30 years of research and industrial experience in geo-environmental engineering, has made numerous pioneering contributions in oil sands and mine waste management and reclamation.

Barbour was recognized for his achievements and career-long service to the engineering profession, particularly his multidisciplinary research into the performance of oil sands mine sites and the reclamation  systems and materials used to establish sustainable ecosystems on former mine site areas.

"I am very pleased to receive this honour.  The challenges associated with mine site closure and reclamation have been a focus of my research for most of my career. It is exciting to now apply this research to the environmental challenges associated with oil sands mining, particularly given the environmental and economic importance of this industry to Canadian society for the foreseeable future.

The environmental challenges resulting from Canada's oil sands industry are unprecedented. To help address those challenges, Barbour was awarded a $2.6-million industrial research chair in Hydrogeological Characterization of Oil Sands Mine Closure Landforms, jointly funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Syncrude Canada Ltd.

"The key questions revolve around what it will take to restore these mine sites back to naturally performing landscapes with an equivalent capability to that which existed prior to mining. The industry works to establish uplands with water and nutrient balances, which are similar to natural sites. They then try to understand the key processes that are operative as they monitor the evolution of these landforms towards fully functioning natural systems."

This research will provide critical insights to industry that will guide mine closure plans in an environmentally sustainable manner. "We want to help develop strategies to ensure that water released after mine closures doesn't have a detrimental impact on the environment. The methods developed in this research will be applicable not only at oil sands mines but at other mine sites as well," he said.

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