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Highland Valley Copper donates $350K toward TRU's bid for research chair

Highland Valley Copper has pledged $350,000 in cash and in-kind support toward the establishment of an industrial research chair position at Thompson Rivers University.

Highland Valley Copper has pledged $350,000 in cash and in-kind support toward the establishment of an industrial research chair position at Thompson Rivers University.

The commitment comes this week as the university continues to wait for a call from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council (NSERC) on its request.

The research chair is the last step needed to create a centre for ecosystem reclamation at the university, which would be a first in the country.

The people who want to do this have done all they needed to do, said Lauchlan Fraser, a professor at TRU in biological sciences and an acknowledged international expert in the field.

They've met with the six experts in the field tasked with assessing the application and, on Thursday, Highland Valley Copper stepped up with its major funding announcement

If the application is approved, the company's donation would be matched by NSERC.

Greg Brouwer, general manager of the Teck-owned copper mine 45 minutes southwest of Kamloops, said it has pledged $200,000 in cash and $150,000 worth of in-kind support over five years to accompany creation of and work to be done by the research chair.

Brouwer said Highland Valley, which has partnered with TRU in the past on ecological projects, saw it as a way to work with surrounding communities and First Nations to ensure the industrial land is returned to its former state, "to conserve and enhance biodiversity and return areas to productive uses."

Fraser said the work he and his students and colleagues do and hope to expand in the future is, in essence, "research that makes an impact."

It is work that looks at ecosystems, sees how they change, sees why they change and determines their function.

A handful of dirt might contain more than one-million potential microsystems, he said, and the kind of information that can be gathered by studying them has ongoing ecological relevance.

"We are very lucky to live in this country filled with people who really appreciate the environment and who understand climate change is real," Fraser said.

A decision on the research chair application is expected from NSERC before the end of the year.