October 02, 2012

Federal grants fund mining-related research

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Researchers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale are currently working on three federally funded projects that total nearly $600,000.

The projects are the result of grants from the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.  The federal agency's Applied Science Program supports studies by universities and other research institutions in areas of coal mine reclamation, re-vegetation, blasting, hydrology, coal mine voids and fires, soil productivity, acid mine drainage and other topics relevant to environmentally responsible mining and reclamation.

The first project, titled "Stream Restoration -- Long Term Performance: A Reassessment" is being conducted by Jack Nawrot, a senior scientist emeritus with the University's Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory.  The study, funded at almost $200,000, will assess stream reconstructions up to 20 years old to document what factors affect the long-term landform changes and biological recovery of stream function and value, among other things.

Liliana Lefticariu, assistant professor of geology, is conducting the second project, titled "Improved Sulfate-reducing Bioreactors for the Remediation of High Total Dissolved Solids Drainage Associated with Coal Mining and Processing in the U.S." Funded at $190,500, this study will evaluate treatment processes and technology improvements, including solar-powered automation and semi-passive treatment using low-cost waste materials as a carbon source. Researchers also will conduct new system evaluation methods, including applications of isotope geochemistry, organic geochemistry, and microbiology that will assess, monitor and improve the efficiency of the treatment processes.

Xingmao Ma, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, is conducting a third project, "Low-cost, Green Technology to Improve Water Quality in Mining-Impacted Ecosystems, Phase I -- Model Development and Optimization." The study, funded at almost $200,000, will look at water quality protection and mitigation technologies for use in mine-impacted environments.

The Interior department's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement has awarded more than $8 million to support 71 applied science projects since the program began in 2005.