BHP has formed a partnership aimed at finding a sustainable way to both clean up legacy mining impacts and develop biomass to be used as feedstock for biofuels from the impacted lands and water.
The mining company and United States Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will work with universities on the project.
BHP’s collaboration with universities and research institutes will study species of plants and algae that can be used to aid in the cleanup of impacts from uranium mining in the soil and water through phytoremediation.
It will then produce biodiesel and other value-added products from brownfield sites in arid climates.
The planned program also intersects with existing work at BHP to accelerate the development of carbon capture systems in a range of applications, noting that many of the nature-based options to remediate land also remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“BHP’s commitment to putting health and safety first, being environmentally responsible, and supporting our communities extends to mine sites that are no longer operating, including those BHP acquired after mining was completed. In many cases, historical practices at these sites have resulted in environmental impacts,” the company stated.
“BHP works hard to address these site-based concerns in collaboration with regulatory agencies and local communities.”
The first 24-month program will identify and test native and other compatible species of algae and plants for their phytoremediation capability and metal uptake, as well as safe and efficient ways to process the harvested phytoremediation crops into useful bioproducts.
The laboratory and field studies will build on current literature and peer studies, according to BHP.