Hargreaves, J., Lock, A., Beckett, P., Spiers, G. A., Tisch, B, Lanteigne, L., Posadowski, T. and Soenens, M. 2012. Suitability of an organic residual cover on tailings for bioenergy crop production: A preliminary assessment. Can. J. Soil Sci. 92: 203-211. To test the potential for production of bioenergy crops, such as canola and corn, an organic cover was constructed over acid-producing mine tailings containing nickel and copper, belonging to Vale in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. The 1 m deep cover was of organic residuals (biosolids) obtained from a regional paper mill. Corn and canola crops were successfully grown using agricultural techniques. Crop yields from each of 2 yr from the tailings site were greater than those obtained at an agricultural site in the region. Root, shoot and grain analyses indicated low potential for bioaccumulation of potentially hazardous metals from the organic residual cover or the underlying tailings. Over the short term, there was no evidence of metal movement into the biosolids cover or uptake by the crops from the underlying tailing deposits. Importantly, canola seeds and corn kernels, the feedstocks for biodiesel and ethanol biofuels production, did not accumulate environmentally sensitive metals. This preliminary study demonstrates that the placement of an organic residuals cover on mine tailings to support growth of bioenergy crops is a potential novel reclamation strategy for the mining and smelting industry, or for industrial brownfields in general.
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