One dandelion may have found the answer to help start more reclamation projects.
A new study from the University of Saskatchewan is looking at weeds and how they can clean coarse tailings.
Professor Susan Kaminskyj tells Mix News they were able to get a hold of different plants and weeds that were found growing in these areas.
She says they found a fungal strain in a dandelion that helped different plants grow in tailings without fertilizer.
“We were able to show that if we grew plants on tailings for a couple of months that they actually degraded light and medium fractions of petrochemicals and if they had the fungus they were twice as good.”
Kaminskyj notes at first they were happy to know the plants weren’t dying but quickly found out this fungus strain was helping clean the contaminated soil.
However, once the plant or weed dies – the strain, which is native to Alberta, will also leave the soil.
So far, it’s helped every type of plant they tested it with.
“Any other plant that we’ve tried has worked, remediation seeds, grasses, clovers.”
Kaminskyj adds the next step is to take the research out into the field.
There have been a few field tests in Banff and northern British Columbia but nothing in the Wood Buffalo region.
“I know some people who work with Suncor and Syncrude but they have their own field test and they’re not really interested in mine but the things they’re doing are important also.”
Moving forward the hope is to partner with different sites.
“Hundreds of spills and leaks happen in Canada every year, spills and leaks happen very quickly, they take an awfully long time to clean up and all we’re trying to do is to make the re-vegetation part easier and the clean-up easier,” she added.