Sudbury researcher hopes artificial wetland rafts help clean up mine waste

A student researcher in Sudbury is hoping that his invention might be part of the answer to dealing with mining waste.

Varun Gupta says 'glorified pallets' built to mimic natural, neutralizing wetland environments

A chain of Gupta's floating "wetlands" being tested in Ramsey Lake near the Living with Lakes Centre. (Supplied)

A student researcher in Sudbury is hoping that an invention involving wooden pallets and pool noodles might be part of the answer to dealing with mining waste.

Varun Gupta is a Ph.D student working at the Vale Living with Lakes Centre. Through the "Mine of Knowledge" program, he's partnered with mining company Glencore to look into how to create artificial floating wetlands.

Varun Gupta is a Ph.D student at the Living with Lakes Centre in Sudbury. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC )
Natural wetlands, noted Gupta, "thrive in that [acidic] environment" created by mining contaminants, and actually help to neutralize some of the waste. 

"So, how do we bring them to another site, where they have, let's say, a big pond or a lake that is getting contaminated ... from a big tailing pile — how do you create a wetland there?"

"You bring a floating wetland, and that's what I'm creating," he said.

Using what he called "glorified pallets" — along with some burlap and pool noodles — Gupta has built a series of floating rafts that create similar conditions to wetland environments.

"This system that I am trying to create here has been used in sewage treatment and storm water treatment, but no one has applied that technology to mine drainage," he explained. 

Gupta is now studying how effective his prototype is at dealing with mining waste — and he admits the 70 or so rafts he's in the process of building are not made for beauty. 

"Looking good is not what I'm going here for, I'm looking for practicality and durability," he said with a chuckle. 

To hear more from the interview with Varun Gupta, you can listen here. 


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?