New evidence is suggesting Syncrude’s Base Mine Lake is closer to a natural lake than a tailings pond.
The body of water was created in 2012 to replace a former open-pit mine, covering an area of tailings materials.
A recently discovered micro-organism, Methylicorpusculum oleiharenae which means small-bodied methane eater, was first found in the company’s west in-pit tailings pond nine years ago, however, it’s practically nonexistent in the mine lake.
“That one has now almost disappeared from Base Mine Lake, which is an indication the lake is no longer a tailings pond,” said Peter Dunfield, Microbiologist with the University of Calgary. “There have been dramatic changes in the microbes in the lake over the past six years – it really doesn’t resemble a tailings pond anymore.”
The initial belief is the bacteria has seeped into the tailings materials under the water layer.
There continue to be methane-eating bacteria, however, different ones have colonized the lake due to the water’s conditions changing.
“There have been dramatic changes, not only in the species of methane-oxidizing bacteria but also in other key players such as phototrophic algae,” added Dunfield. “The overall microbial biodiversity appears to be increasing. The lake is trending in a positive direction.”
Originally, it was thought this would take decades for these changes to happen.