British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Biofuel crop production on biosolid-amended mine tailings at Highland Valley Copper Crawford, S.; Gardner, W.G.; Karakatsoulis, J.


Due to an increasing demand on arable land, researchers are now turning to decommissioned mine areas to grow biofuel crops. In the summer of 2010 a growth study was conducted on one of the decommissioned tailings ponds at Highland Valley Copper, a copper-molybdenum mine located in the interior of British Columbia. The objectives of the study were to determine whether three commonly used biodiesel-producing plant species - canola (Brassica napus L.), Indian mustard (Brassica juncea L.) and crambe (Crambe abyssinica Hochst ex Fries) - could achieve sufficient enough growth on biosolid-amended mine tailings to produce biofuels. After seeding, growth was monitored and the crops harvested at the end of one growing season. All aboveground plant biomass was measured and gross energy content and chemical composition of the plants was determined. Canola and Indian mustard achieved nearly equivalent growth in terms of dry biomass production but canola produced significantly more seed pod mass than Indian mustard. Crambe produced the least amount of biomass and seed pod mass. All yields were below standards for biodiesel production, which indicates seed production on this site is insufficient to sustain biodiesel production. However, further studies with an earlier seeding date are needed, as a late seeding date of mid-June may have placed restraints on the growth of the crop. Energy analysis indicates the gross energy content of both canola and Indian mustard are comparable to currently used cellulosic ethanol feedstocks, whereas crambe was significantly lower.

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