Dr. Ernest YanfulProfessor and Chair, Engineering
Office: Spencer Engineering Building, Room number 3006
Dr. Ernest Yanful is Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Associate Director of the Geotechnical Research Centre at Western University, he is also Provost of KNUST- Africa Institute of Sanitation & Waste Management, in Madina, Accra (Ghana).
On the frontier of engineering research, Dr. Ernest Yanful specializes in understanding and minimizing the environmental effects of mining and other industrial activities. This is crucial information, not just for Canada, but also for the developing world, where clean and safe water is often limited. As a multi-disciplinary researcher, Dr. Yanful’s research interests are in the general areas of geoenvironmental and geotechnical engineering. The main fields of expertise are barrier (cover and liner) design and fundamental understanding of soil/rock/mineral interactions with pollutants and aggressive fluids.
Professor Yanful’s applied research has developed innovative technologies for waste management for the mining industry over the last 13 years. His major contribution has been in the area of developing and optimizing soil cover designs for preventing or controlling acidic drainage in waste rock and tailings from mining and milling of metal and uranium ores. In the last three years, he has embarked on frontier research in the fundamental understanding of the environmental factors and processes involved in the flooding of sulphide-bearing mine tailings. An important focus has been the wind-induced resuspension of the flooded tailings and consequent oxidation and pollutant release. This research has received nearly $750,000 of funding from seven Canadian mining companies and NSERC. The research has involved seven graduate students and one postdoctoral fellow supervised either by Dr. Yanful and/or co-supervised by five other professors in the Faculty of Engineering. The work has generated some 15 technical articles over the last three years. The research will, in the long term, develop an innovative method for predicting the optimum depth of water cover necessary to prevent resuspension. The potential socio-economic impact is huge, as it would allow mining companies to select the appropriate height of dams for long-term tailings storage.
Over the years, Dr. Yanful has also undertaken research that has led to the development of innovative methods for measuring oxygen diffusion in soils, especially cover soils used for mitigating acid drainage in mine waste. Consulting companies and other researchers are currently using the methods. Presently, the Geotechnical Research Centre also provides commercial soil testing services for clients using these methods.
Dr. Yanful’s research on barrier-fluid interactions has facilitated the design of waste containment ponds and the prediction of the long-term performance of such ponds. This work has included an investigation of the impact of acid mine drainage on the integrity of soil-bentonite liners and integrity of bentonite liner, as it interacts with industrial wastewater. His research has been made possible by funding from The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Dr. Yanful leads capacity-building initiatives in Ghana and Kenya. These initiatives better train local engineers to understand issues related to waste management, water and sanitation, biodiesel production and the design of small, mobile drinking water systems for remote communities.