New U of S research chair will help reclaim oil sands mine sites

University of Saskatchewan geoscientist Matt Lindsay will help Canada's oil sands industry make sustainable mine closure decisions through a new $1.4-million industrial research chair funded jointly by the federal Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Syncrude.

Over the next five years, Lindsay and a team of students will study byproducts of oil sands mining and processing — such as sand, treated fluid fine tailings and petroleum coke — and analyze changes to these materials after they are used to form reclaimed landscapes.

"Certain materials might behave quite differently when stored under deep soil or water cover as compared to storing them on the land surface," said Lindsay, an assistant professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the U of S College of Arts and Science.

"We want to understand what those differences are and why they occur, and use that information to develop strategies for placement of these materials that minimize their potential environmental impact."

NSERC and Syncrude — one of the world's largest oil sands producers — will each contribute almost $700,000 for the new Industrial Research Chair in Mine Closure Geochemistry.

"We are very grateful for this major support from our partners NSERC and Syncrude," said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research. "And we are very excited that this new chair has attracted a talented young researcher whose work will build on our outstanding multidisciplinary strengths in environmental remediation of mine sites and inspire the students who will work alongside him."

Syncrude will also provide specialized sampling equipment and access to mine sites for field studies, enabling hands-on research that isn't possible in the lab. Lindsay's students will have the opportunity to learn from Syncrude scientists and engineers.

"Research chairs, like this one at the University of Saskatchewan, are important to help Syncrude and others in our industry reclaim land into a productive state after we've completed mining," said Glen Rovang, Syncrude's manager of research and development. "They build on decades of research allowing us to continually improve our reclamation programs."

Six graduate students and six undergraduate students will receive advanced training through the chair, which involves collecting samples from sites around Syncrude's Mildred Lake facility near Fort McMurray, AB. The samples will be analyzed at U of S facilities, including the Canadian Light Source synchrotron.

Lindsay brings to the position a decade of industry-partnered experience in the mining industry, performing both laboratory research and large-scale field studies. His work will complement two other NSERC-funded industrial research chairs at the U of S involved in mining industry partnerships.

The new chair builds on three U of S signature areas of research:

  • Energy and Mineral Resources: Technology and Public Policy for a Sustainable Environment;

  • Water Security: Stewardship of the World's Freshwater Resources; and

  • Synchrotron Sciences: Innovation in Health, Environment and Advanced Technologies.


For more information, contact:

Chris Putnam

Communications Officer

College of Arts and Science

University of Saskatchewan

(306) 966-1982

Leithan Slade

Public Affairs Representative

Syncrude Canada

(780) 715-4913

Kasia Majewski

Manager, External Relations


(613) 853-4479
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