Decommissioning technology using charophytes

The role of ecological engineering in the removal of contaminants from alkaline mine waste water: A sustainable decommissioning technology using charophytes.

In 1982, Margarete Kalin founded Boojum Research Limited in Toronto, Canada. Boojum is an R&D company developing ecological and sustainable approaches to mine decommissioning and remediation. Ecological engineering, applied ecology was established by Eugene and Howard Odum and promoted by William J. Mitsch mainly for wetland restauration and organic pollutant degradation. Margarete Kalin translated the discipline with her team of scientist to the mine waste and water management. Here inorganic contaminants are retained within the wastes and stabilized by microbes as biominerals in sediments. Ecological engineering measures support the growth of indigenous, microbes, fungi and algae. The measures work within the wastes altering the extreme harsh ecosystem components and gradually the drainage from the wastes is improved.

One of the technologies pioneered by Boojum Research is biological polishing. Here aquatic plants, algae and microbes sequester contaminants through adsorption and absorption. Once removed from the waste water, the contaminants are transported (after death of the organism) to underlying organic sediments. There, other, heterotrophic microbes transform and retain the contaminants. This technology is especially useful in alkaline mine waste waters, where charophytes (green algae) can effectively sequester a wide variety of mine contaminants, such as radium, uranium, selenium, and heavy metals.

We proudly report, that to the best of our knowledge, the transplantation of biomass of Nitella flexilis to a lake void of aquatic vegetation and its expansion has prevented the construction of a chemical treatment plant to remove Ra226 from the waste water of a uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan, Canada. In constructed ponds Chara vulgaris was seeded treating discharge of an underground inactive mine effectively. The feasibility of using charophytes in a number of other alkaline mine systems has been evaluated. These reports along with those from the Canadian project are electronically available at the Laurentian University Library. These reports may be of interest to members of the IRGC. If more information is needed, please contact Margarete Kalin (

The reports are listed below with a short commentary on the content

A feasibility investigation of the potential use of the “Chara Process” and indigenous biota as passive polishing agents for cyanide in waste liquors at Arvida by M. Kalin, 1985.
File CH001:
Commentary: The feasibility study suggested that charophytes would remove cyanide, but further work was hindered due to the business conditions demanded.

A feasibility study on the use of the Chara process and an assessment of the reclamation by ecological engineering for the Levack tailings by M. Kalin, 1985.
File AR001A:
Commentary: Chara vulgaris grew well, until a truckload of concentrated NaOH solution was dumped into the pond. The mine manager apologized.

The Chara Process: Biological economization of mill effluent treatment. Potential application and preliminary results by M. Kalin, 1985.
File CN001A:
Commentary: Interesting growth tests of C. globularis and C. vulgaris

Growth dynamics of naturally-colonizing Characeae in abandoned tailings ponds by M. Kalin and M.P. Smith, 1987.
File CN003A:
Commentary: Interesting field observations on growth characteristics of naturally-colonized alkaline mine tailings areas.

Ecosystem restoration in the Rabbit Lake drainage basin: Retaining 226Ra and uranium within the waste management area. 2003
Commentary: Summary of a twelve year study into the ecology of transplanted Nitella flexilis by at a uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan, Canada.

Chara Process: Biological polishing of alkaline effluents by M. Kalin and M.P. Smith, 1988.
File CN004:
Commentary: Introductions of Chara vulgaris biomass to limnocorrals set up in many alkaline tailings areas and first tests of germination of oospores in the field.

Ecological engineering and the Chara Process applied to the Rabbit Lake drainage basin by M.P. Smith and M. Kalin, 1992.
File CA009:
Commentary: The first observations leading to the application of the Chara process to prevent the construction of a chemical treatment plant for Ra226.

Unterst├╝tzung bei der Ansiedelung von Characeen (Chara/Nitella-Arten): Bericht 4, 2002.
File GM005:
Commentary: Chara vulgaris oospores were transplanted from a Canadian gold mine tailings seepage to a biological polishing system at WISMUT in Germany. According to personal communication of the attendant, the oospores germinated and flourished in the ponds.

Propagation of Chara vulgaris using sediment seed bank oospores and vegetative biomass 2003.
File GM006:
Commentary: The backup work to provide the ponds with suitable oospore concentrates.

Selenium removal from coal mine valley fill effluents using Chara, 2013.
File ZZ009:
Commentary: The geochemical characteristics of Se in coal mine effluents suggest that it might be removed by charophytes. The University of Kentucky provided a contract to Boojum to investigate coal valley seep ponds in West Virginia, U.S.A. This scoping study revealed that the pond with a high biomass of Chara vulgaris had discharge water with the lowest Se concentration.