NEW AFTON MINE — A group of visitors at New Gold's mine near Kamloops flicked on their cellphone flashlights in an artificially created bat cave Friday to get a closer look at potential research that promises to shed new light on ecosystem reclamation.
In a disused feeder tunnel, part of the original Afton Mine, they enountered bat hiberariums — wooden frames designed to support bat colonies — but no bats. The plan is that there soon will be as part of a collaborative research effort involving mine operator New Gold, TRU and local First Nations.
The tour followed New Gold's announcement that it will pledge $200,000 toward an industrial research chair in ecosystem reclamation at TRU. It’s a major piece in putting together the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) chair position at the university, adding to $150,000 from the Real Estate Foundation and $250,000 from Genome B.C. New Gold’s contribution is eligible for matching funds from NSERC on a one-to-one basis.
“These investments allow TRU to be at the forefront in the development of tools to help solve environmental disturbances caused by mining, forestry and ranching — solutions that are more pressing than ever in the face of climate change,” said Prof. Lauchlan Fraser, candidate for the NSERC industrial chair.
“New Gold and the New Afton Mine highly value corporate social responsibility and proper environmental stewardship,” said Scott Davidson, manager of environment, social responsibility and tailings at the New Afton Mine.
“New Gold has partnered with TRU to continue research in the area of reclamation over a five-year period,” Davidson said. “Working locally on initiatives like this helps to build capacity in the community and leaves behind a positive legacy. We are proud to support applied research with TRU and build on our ongoing relationship with the university.”
Creating an NSERC research chair supports development of industry-based solutions to environmental problems, and puts TRU one step closer to the creation of a centre for ecosystem reclamation — a first of its kind in Canada.
“These investments speak to the value of the research being undertaken at TRU. This research will not only solve local challenges, but it will also have an impact at an international level,” said Alan Shaver, TRU president and vice-chancellor.
Reclamation solutions are to be developed in consultation with local Aboriginal communities, incorporating their interests and using native plant species to restore traditional land use.
New Gold has been supporting research at TRU for several years now. Projects supported include wetland remediation research on the Great Basin spadefoot, a blue-listed amphibian found in the wetlands near the mine, and new research is underway to advance the search for effective biological control options against the fungus that causes white nose syndrome in North American bats.
The cave is being used by TRU microbiologist Ann Cheeptham and adjunct professor Cori Lausen to identify new microbes and viruses that inhibit the growth of the fungus. White nose syndrome has killed millions of North American bats since it was first documented in New York in 2007, and has been tracked as far west as Washington State.