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This Week in Research – Dr. Nadia Mykytczuk awarded the Early Researcher Award

Dr. Nadia Mykytczuk awarded the Early Researcher Award

Laurentian University is pleased to announce that Dr. Nadia Mykytczuk, NOHFC Chair in Biomining, Bioremediation and Science Communication, was awarded $100,000 through the Early Researcher Award Round 12 program for her project titled, Extracting value from environmental liabilities: using microbes to recover metals and reduce impacts from mine waste, which will develop novel cost-effective ways of preventing the release of contaminants to aquatic systems, while using energy-efficient microbial methods to extract value from solid wastes.  The early researcher awards program is an initiative through the Ontario Ministry of Innovation that seeks to accelerate the research activities of Ontario’s leading career researchers.  The majority of the $100,000 awarded to Dr. Mykytczuk will be allocated to the hiring and training of Highly Qualified Personnel.

Dr. Mykytczuk is an environmental microbiologist focusing on extreme environments, with a focus on mining microbiology in colder climates. Her research program is multidisciplinary, applying tools in molecular biology, microbiology, biogeochemistry, with a focus on applications in biomining and bioremediation technology. She has published over 23 papers (H-index:14) and has trained a total of 38 HQP since the start of her PhD.

Dr. Mykytczuk’s research program will advance these biotechnologies and train Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) to develop and optimize leaching and remediation for application in Northern Ontario mining sector, as well as elsewhere in Canada. These technologies and trained researchers will transfer this knowledge into new clean technology companies that will help grow the mine service sector to address the needs of the full “mining life cycle”. This will benefit local communities with employment opportunities, improve environmental protection, increase social license for the development of new mines, and decrease costs and liabilities for mining companies and all levels of government in dealing with existing and abandoned mines.

The anticipated results of the proposed research are of strategic importance to Ontario, and in particular to the mining sector. Canada's mining industry is an important economic driver – it employs over 300,000 Canadians, contributing 3.5% of Canada' GDP. Given the intensity of waste generation in mineral extraction and processing across Canada, with nearly 5000 abandoned mine sites in Ontario alone, the cost of treatment and management of these sites is an enormous environmental and financial burden on the public purse. Thus the need for cost-effective mine waste treatment technologies is significant. The advancement of microbial controls for biomining and bioremediation processes will improve operations and profitability, while reducing long-term treatment costs for mine site maintenance and closure.

As part of this project, Dr. Mykytczuk has also planned a series of outreach activities which will include both secondary school students, with ‘Mining’ and ‘Environment’ interest, and First Nations Community youth. These two target groups will be engaged through a series of educational training modules that address environmental issues surrounding Ontario’s resource development. Teaching modules are currently being developed by Dr. Mykytczuk, through an online modular course entitled “Environmental Remediation: Global Lessons from the Sudbury Story”. Additional modules will be developed as part of this project focusing on new areas of innovation and clean technology. These workshops will be offered at Laurentian’s mining and environment related workshops and through the Goodman School of Mines Executive learning program several times per year. These courses will also be offered virtually with the goal of reaching Far North Communities through Laurentian’s Science Communication Program. The Research Team will help develop educational materials, provide leadership in the workshops, and engage with the youth. Funding support will assist with logistics of workshop delivery and associated teaching/training materials.

Dr. Mykytczuk is very grateful for the support that the ERA will provide to helping expand her research team. This will accelerate her contributions towards sustainable mining in Canada and getting HQP excellent training and applied experience in a growing green tech sector.