DULUTH, MN – The Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota Duluth received $500,000 from the University of Minnesota’s MNDrive Transdisciplinary Research Program to implement “Smart Bioremediation Technology” to reduce sulfate concentrations in northeastern Minnesota watersheds. Through MNDrive, the University is awarding nearly $6 million to align research with industry and support projects that bring together faculty and resources from multiple disciplines.
Minnesota faces the challenge of maintaining its existing iron ore industry and potential development of non-ferrous mining while protecting watersheds from elevated aqueous sulfate concentrations that could prove detrimental to biota, especially wild rice. The goal for this research will be to create a commercial-scale, remotely operated modular bioremediation system to reduce sulfate concentrations in waters from past, present and potential future mining operations.
Pilot scale designs of the technology have already shown significant reductions of sulfate from legacy iron ore mine pit lake waters. The MNDrive funds will expand the initial pilot study to measure efficacy, determine scale-up potential and study complex interactions with other interfering systems.
David Hendrickson, NRRI director of strategic development, is the principal investigator on the project. “I’ve been working with a small business partner for the past two years to create this technology that mimics natural processes,” said Hendrickson. “We’ve had promising preliminary results and now we have a really strong, multidisciplinary team of scientists with the funding to continue the research.”
Co-Investigators are NRRI researchers Donald Fosnacht and Brian Brashaw, UMD’s Thomas Ferguson (Electrical Engineering), Randall Hicks (Biology), and James Skurla (Human Resources and Equal Opportunity), as well as Michael Sadowsky (Biotechnology Institute), John Lamb (Soil, Water and Climate) and Paige Novak (Civil Engineering) from the University’s Twin Cities campus.
“Due to the sense of urgency surrounding the sulfate ion reduction issue, we are pleased to have the opportunity to take this research to the next level,” said NRRI Director Rolf Weberg.
MNDrive (Minnesota’s Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy) is a landmark partnership to foster innovation, cultivate strategic business collaborations that advance Minnesota’s economy and enhances the University’s ability to produce breakthrough research that addresses the state’s and society’s greatest challenges.