The main research orientations of the RIME are declined into seven major themes.
The work of RIME is dedicated to the reclamation of mine wastes disposal areas with the objective of optimizing the performance of single- and multi-layer covers made of geological materials or geosynthetics, and placed on tailings impoundments or waste rock piles under different climatic conditions. The long-term performance of these covers and the adjustment of techniques developed for acid mine drainage (AMD) for materials producing contaminated neutral drainage (CND) are also part of the research program.
Environmental protection must consider the effects of all mining stages, from exploration, to project feasibility studies, to mine operation and site closure. In addition, the integration of best practices, such as stope backfilling, is now becoming more common. RIME will continue to work on different modes of backfilling, with or without cement, for underground operations and surface mines, or by the deposition of densified tailings. The treatment of mine wastes (by desulfurization for example) before deposition is another alternative that can help reduce their environmental impact, and so are the various means developed to valorize mine wastes.
The work of RIME includes characterization of the hydrogeological, geotechnical and geochemical behavior of waste rock using laboratory and in-situ methods. Part of this work also focuses on fluid movement and reactive transport inside waste rock piles through the use of physical and numerical models. The development of new construction methods for waste rock piles, which aim at controlling the flow of water and generation of contaminants, while improving geotechnical stability, is another research objective.
Part of the work of RIME is dedicated to the prediction the quality of the water circulating within mining structures such as waste rock piles and tailings impoundments. The management of mining effluents represents an important objective for the industry, as the quality is subjected to increasingly stringent environmental standards (e.g. pH, metal concentrations, toxicity). Acid mine drainage (AMD), characterized by a low pH and elevated metal and sulfate concentrations, is still a major problem for the mining operations. The ongoing work on quality prediction also addresses, among other aspects, the adjustments of prediction methods developed for AMD to other types of contamination such as contaminated neutral drainage (CND) where elevated metal concentrations are found in leachates at a neutral pH level.
Developing efficient biological and chemical treatments of contaminated mine water using passive or active methods is another area of interest for the RIME. The types of contamination of concern include acid mine drainage, contaminated neutral drainage, cyanide-laden effluent from gold mines, and ammonia. Laboratory and field tests are being used to develop innovative approaches and design criteria. These studies address complex considerations such as the effects of scale and specific environmental conditions at the mining site including level of contamination and climate.
The work of the RIME includes innovative methods of wastes management, such as the use of waste rock inclusions in tailings impoundments. These inclusions aim at improving the geotechnical stability by favoring drainage and consolidation, while reinforcing the impoundment with respect to static and dynamic (seismic) loads. The work is conducted at different scales, from the laboratory to field, and with the assistance of physical and numerical models.
With the development projects in the arctic, it becomes necessary to evaluate the behavior of mining wastes exposed to these particular local conditions. The work of RIME addresses the themes presented above for a variety of climatic conditions, including those of cold regions. The influence of climate change on the behavior of wastes and disposal areas is also included in the research themes.