Highland Valley Copper gives $350,000 towards research chair

Dean of science Tom Dickinson was among those who spoke at the donation announcement last week. (Juan Cabrejo/The Omega)

Highland Valley Copper has pledged $350,000 donation towards the creation of an industrial research chair position at Thompson Rivers University.

The creation of a research chair is the last step towards establishing a Centre for Ecosystem Reclamation on campus.

Greg Brouwer, the general manager for Teck Resources, which owns the Highland Valley Copper mine, said the company has a long-standing relationship with the university and saw this opportunity as a way to strengthen that relationship and meet their sustainability goals.

“Reclamation is a key part of the mining process. Mining by design does have an impact on the land and what we want to do, is through our reclamation process that we restore that land to a very productive land use once the mining is finished,” Brouwer said.

Dean of science Tom Dickinson said the project seeks to do research that will make a difference in the world.

“We try and connect ourselves and our human, intellectual and physical resources to all of the community to help solve challenges. This will be a huge part of building those resources and building that capacity to do that connection with our community,” Dickinson said.

With a goal of helping to lessen the impact that mining has on the environment, the research will also try to answer questions that aren’t very well understood.

“How do you reclaim land that has been developed for the purposes of mining and has set aside some of the surface to be put back after the mine is closed? And every mine has to have a plan for the closing of the mine at the end of its time,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson said the reclamation centre would also work at understanding how to put the land back into a productive state after being mined. This is especially a challenge in Kamloops. The dry and hot climate can make land difficult to re-vegetate.

“Right from the minerals in the soil to the small micro organisms in the soil, to the plants that grow on those soils, to the insects that eat them to the birds that eat the insects, all the way up through the ecosystem – to try and understand better how we can reclaim areas that we’ve disturbed for commercial and industrial uses,” Dickinson said.

However, the university is still waiting for approval from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council (NSERC) before moving forward. If the application is approved, Highland Valley Copper’s donation will be matched by NSERC.

Once approved, TRU will be the first in the country to create such a centre. Dickinson said it’s important for TRU to be a leader in this area because we live in a community that is surrounded by mines.

“It’s one of those big resources that the world needs. It needs minerals. It needs the kinds of things that mining produces for our livelihood. In all honesty, I’d rather have it developed here where we have laws and regulations that protect the environment than in parts of the world where it wouldn’t be under the scrutiny of those laws,” Dickinson said.

NSERC’s decision on the research chair application may be made by the end of the year.

“We’ll just keep our fingers crossed and hope to have a Christmas present,” Dickinson said.