February 2015    Print this article

Joint research program on sustainable
development in the mining sector

Louis Bienvenu, ing.
Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles

A joint research program on sustainable development in the mining sector was developed by Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT) in collaboration with the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles (MERN). It responds to the Québec government’s desire, as laid out in its Mineral Strategy of 2009, to set up a program that supports technological innovation and the development of new processes to assist the mining industry in meeting environmental and technical challenges imposed by the province’s geological setting.

The program will run for five years (2012–2013 to 2016–2017). The MERN will provide a maximum grant of $15 million from the mining heritage branch of the Natural Resources Fund. The FRQNT will contribute another $1.5 million and will manage the project. In all, the budget allocated for research projects will amount to $15,250,000.

The program is aimed at university and college researchers with projects lasting two to three years. Two-year projects can receive a grant of $200,000, and $300,000 for three-year projects. All projects must be supported by the mining industry with a minimum contribution of 10% of project costs, and this amount can be in the form of cash or goods and services.

During the three first years of the program, the FRQNT will launch three calls for proposals to researchers, and each of these will have a budget of roughly $5.1 million. The proposals will be analyzed by a relevance committee composed of MERN representatives who will determine whether the proposals fit the criteria laid out by the MERN. Following this, the most suitable projects will be assessed by a scientific committee, composed of university peers, who will evaluate each project’s contribution to scientific advancement. Finally, the best projects will be submitted to the program’s management committee for the allocation of funding, while keeping within the global budget assigned to each call for propositions.

Research requirements

The program proposed by the FRQNT takes into account the priority research areas identified by the Mineral Strategy of Québec. These areas were elaborated during a workshop in January 2010 that gathered the principal mining stakeholders from all fields in the mining sector, from exploration to rehabilitation, including the research field.

Research requirements are grouped into five themes as follows:

  1. Deep exploration and mining: research into ways to make the exploration and mining of deep deposits economically viable.
  2. Mining development in Northern environments: supporting and promoting mining in Northern Québec by acquiring new knowledge on the challenges posed by this territory.
  3. Energy economics and greenhouse gases: development of innovative energy-related products or processes that will help meet the growing demand for green products and achieve Québec’s objectives to control greenhouse gas emissions.
  4. Environmental and community impacts of mining development: research environmental and social impacts in order to better inform the public, facilitate personnel recruitment, attract investments and gain social acceptance for mining projects.
  5. Geomatic tool development and optimization: research into new approaches in geological interpretation and deep target definition, in increasingly remote regions and fragile environments.

Results to date

The first call for proposals, with a budgetary envelope of $5.1 million, was launched in June 2013. The committee assessments and available budget allowed 19 of the 42 proposals to receive funding, and these research projects are still underway. These projects cover all five research themes. The proposals that did not receive funding were allowed to reapply during the next call for proposals.

The second call for proposals, again with a budgetary envelope of $5.1 million, was launched in early summer 2014. Researchers submitted 44 research proposals. The assessment is currently underway, and results should be made available in early 2015. It is expected that roughly the same number of proposals will be funded as for the first call for proposals. 

A third call for proposals is planned for the summer of 2015.

Dissemination of results

Over the next few months, the MERN and the FRQNT will examine the most effective ways to share research results with both the mining community and the general public.

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