British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Evaluation of current revegetation techniques used in B. C. Errington, J. C., 1946- 1978-01-22

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Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 51 EVALUATION OF CURRENT REVEGETATION TECHNIQUES USED IN B.C. Paper Presented by: J. C. Errington Reclamation Inspector B.C. Ministry of Mines and Petroleum Resources Victoria, B.C. Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 53 EVALUATION OF CURRENT REVEGETATION  TECHNIQUES USED IN B.C. INTRODUCTION The Ministry of Mines and Petroleum Resources, during the summer of 1977, began a program to evaluate current revegetation techniques in several regions of British Columbia.  The regions, characterized by a common climate as well as similar mining operations, were Crowsnest Coalfield, Peace River Coalfield, and metal mines in the southern interior. This paper discusses two of these regions:- the Peace River coalfield and the metal mines in the southern interior. Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation REGIONAL ASSESSMENT OF RECLAMATION IN THE PEACE RIVER COALFIELD The Peace River coalfield is located in the foothills on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.  There are no active mines in this area but exploration activity has intensified in recent years and, should the economics of coking coal improve, there is promise of   several major coal developments proceeding in the near future. in terms of revegetation the climate presents a considerable challenge.  The treeline occurs at elevations of 5,000 feet (1,500 m) in the Peace River coalfield compared to 7,000 feet (2,133 m) in the southeast.  The Peace River coalfield lies in a remote wilderness which has limited access.  However, with incursions by coal interests, seismic activity and petroleum drilling as well as forestry industries, the character of the region is rapidly altering. Most of the coal licences fall within the Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir zone at lower elevations and the Alpine tundra zone at higher elevations.  In terms of reclamation, areas of both Alpine tundra and the area of stunted trees between the alpine and true forest (termed krummholz vegetation) have similar restrictions to successful revegetation.  Often the areas are combined and referred to as "areas above treeline". Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 55 FACTORS DETERMINING REVEGETATION Experience in revegetation of disturbances in the Peace River coal-field has been gained through reclamation during exploration programs and from several field trials set out by mining companies, their consultants, and the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum Resources. The major problems associated with revegetating disturbances caused by exploration occur above the treeline.  Here the climate is severe and plant growth and survival is limited by an extremely short growing season, high wind velocities, and low nutrient levels. The extreme climatic conditions above the treeline severely restrict the number of species available for use in reclamation programs. Although there are several grass species that perform adequately in the short term, no legume species have survived longer than one year. As sites are generally low in nitrogen and phosphorus, and nutrients cannot be supplied by legume growth, fertilizer additions are necessary for successful revegetation using grass species alone. In areas below treeline, revegetation of exploration disturbance presents no major problems.  Many species of grass and legume grow successfully and are available for reclamation programs.  Generally, sites have low nitrogen availability and rely on legume growth for several years in order to inject enough available nitrogen into the system to allow grass survival.  Low soil moisture on coarse textured sites, occasionally limits legume growth which affects the growth of the entire grass legume mixture.  These areas require applications of fertilizer for successful establishment of a grass sward. Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 56 REVEGETATION PROCEDURES  Three broad types of seeding techniques have been tried in the Peace River coalfield. These are broadcast seeding, harrowing after broadcast seeding, and hydroseeding. Broadcast seeding is the most common method used, consisting of  scattering seed on the surface of the ground.  Broadcast seeding without fertilizer applications has resulted in satisfactory growth at most sites below the treeline.  Above tree-line, this method of seed application has generally resulted in poor growth, but this failure may be attributed to lack of fertilizer rather than seeding technique.  Results of plot trials above treeline indicate that fertilizer applications must accompany seeding for successful growth and germination, and that, given adequate fert-ilizer, most of the grass species used in seeding programs will grow well.  Harrowing and fertilizing all disturbed areas above treeline has been recommended by the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum Resources since 1976.  It is too early to see if methods involving harrowing have been successful, however, preliminary observations indicate that seed catch will be largely improved over former broadcasting techniques.  Hydroseeding was used in an experimental way in the alpine areas of Bullmoose/Chamberlain.  Initial results indicate favourable growth over the first summer and good survival is anticipated next year. Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 57 ASSESSMENT OF SPECIES PERFORMANCE In the Peace River Coal Block a total of 34 species (or varieties) consisting of 21 grasses and 13 legumes has been seeded at various times.  At the present time it is not possible to assess the performance of more than half of these species with any degree of certainty as data on overwintering success is unavailable (Table 1). Above treeline, grass species performance was excellent for meadow foxtail, good for creeping red fescue and timothy, and moderate for meadow fescue, Canada bluegrass, slender wheatgrass, and bromegrass.  Red top grows well the first season but has a poor ability to overwinter.  Legume growth was very poor above tree-line.  The only two legume species which grew at all were alsike clover and red clover and these grew only in sheltered moist pockets. Below treeline, growth of grass and legume species was generally good for the majority of species tested.  Growth was excellent for creeping red fescue and red top; good for Canada bluegrass, slender wheatgrass, and timothy; and moderate for meadow fescue, bromegrass and meadow foxtail.  Legume growth was excellent for alfalfa, alsike clover, red clover, sweet clover, and white clover.  Birdsfoot trefoil and sainfoin grew poorly. Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 58 Table 1 Preliminary evaluation of species performance in the Peace River Coal Block, 1977  Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 59 The Ministry of Mines and Petroleum Resources also established plots to test seeding rates.  In the past, the Ministry has recommended a minimum application rate of 50 lb/acre (56 kg/ha) for use in alpine areas.  A rate of 25 lb/acre (28 kg/ha) has been recommended for forested areas.  These rates are approximations and, depending upon a number of factors, should be increased and decreased accordingly. The forested rate of 25 lb/acre does not allow for any harrowing, therefore seed should not be lost by burying too deep.  However, there is little margin for the uneven spread of seed; consequently, if seeding is done without due care and attention, the seeding rate should be increased to 40 lb/acre (45 kg/ha).  The results of these trials should confirm whether these recommendations are valid. A second set of tests plots was established last fall to see if seed coated with micronutrients would outperform normal uncoated seed. Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 60 REGIONAL ASSESSMENT OF RECLAMATION ON METAL MINES IN THE SOUTHERN INTERIOR OF BRITISH COLUMBIA INTRODUCTION Copper mining occurs throughout the southern interior of British Columbia.  These mines are generally involved in extraction of low grades of copper through open pit operations. A total of eight properties were visited; Bethlehem, Brenda, Craigmont, Lornex, Newmont, O.K. Syndicate, Phoenix and Placid Oil. These mine sites generally occur in dry climates with vegetation ranging from the Ponderosa pine bunch-grass zone to the interior Douglas fir zone to the Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir zone. Precipitation ranges from a low of 18 cm/yr. at Craigmont to around 90 cm/yr. at Phoenix.  Summers are hot and dry.  Last summer's work involved a field assessment of the results of revegetation programs. At the present time, the data have not been analysed in detail and only preliminary impressions are presented.  This discussion will be limited to waste dump materials; the discussion of tailings will be left until another time. Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 61 FACTORS DETERMINING REVEGETATION    There are three major factors apparently inhibiting growth on metal mine wastes:  low soil moisture, low soil nutrient levels and steep unstable slopes. Low levels of soil moisture are one of the major barriers to successful plant growth.  This appears to be a general phenomenon and there have been a number of seeding failures at most mine sites.  Many areas that had growth failures were re-seeded and growth became satisfactory. In general, once growth has been established it appears that it can  be maintained.  The data are currently being analyzed to document those conditions that lessened or hastened drought related failures. Deficiency symptoms caused by low soil nutrient levels contributed to slow plant growth and establishment at about half the mines visited. There tends to be a reluctance to add fertilizer at the initial rates suggested and then apply maintenance applications as well.  Consequently, many of the reclaimed areas are returning to uniform stands of creeping red fescue, and species that are more demanding of nutrients are dying out. Steep slopes, especially those that lack surface stability, are also a barrier to plant growth. The importance of waste material type in the ultimate reclamation of a mine site should be emphasized.  In our surveys, plant growth success or failure could be often related to the kind of material left on the surface.  Many open pit operations have had to remove considerable quantities of unconsolidated surficial materials which are very Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 62 often the best medium for plant growth.  This material was frequently dumped in one location or was lost by burial beneath waste rock. Many of the dumps visited had configurations established long before mine reclamation legislation was enacted.  For currently operating mines we recommend that greater attention should be paid to materials aspects. Some examples of instances where differences in waste material types have made a significant difference to growth patterns include: excellent growth of coniferous species on the "topsoil" covering of waste rock at Phoenix; excellent growth of grass and legumes on the "till" dump at Phoenix and Craigmont; and excellent growth of alfalfa on volcanic waste rock at Craigmont, even on steep slopes.  This waste rock type weathers rapidly and provides a much better growth medium.Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 63  REVEGETATION PROCEDURES  In the mines visited there was quite a variety of techniques employed to establish vegetation.  Seed has been applied generally by broadcast and hydroseeding.  The merits of each method are difficult to assess as the methods themselves have rarely been tested.  There are as many success stories for each method as there are failures. No one method should be used exclusively at any mine site. There should be a maximum degree of site preparation before seeding and, unfortunately, methods of seeding have been often employed to omit this phase of the operation.    For flat surfaces on dumps the compaction should be lessened by harrowing.  If this is done then any form of seeding can be employed successfully.  Irrigation has been used to establish growth at Newmont and Craigmont.  There was concern expressed a few years ago that this method was supporting species that would not persist when irrigation ceased.  At Newmont however irrigation of several areas stopped two years ago and plant growth has continued.  ASSESSMENT OF SPECIES PERFORMANCE A preliminary evaluation of species performance on dry mine waste material has been made (Table 2).   The best grass species appear to be crested wheatgrass and creeping red fescue.  Alfalfa was by far the best of the legume species.  Tall fescue, smooth brome and timothy all grow well under certain conditions.  The only wheatgrasses other than crested wheatgrass to perform adequately were Intermediate and Pubescent wheatgrass. Invasion of native species was relatively non-significant. Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation TABLE  2 PRELIMINARY EVALUATION OF SPECIES PERFORMANCE AT EIGHT METAL MINES IN TIIE SOUTHERN INTERIOR OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, 1977  Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 65 DISCUSSION RELATED TO J.C. ERRINGTON'S PAPER Dave Headdon - University of Calgary.  You mentioned alfalfa and sainfoin but not cicer milkvetch.  I worry about bloat with alfalfa.  Why would you use alfalfa instead of cicer milkvetch for reclamation in general? ANS.  Cicer milkvetch has been tried but it hasn't shown to be that successful.  I'm not recommending these particular species.  I'm just saying what has and what has not worked.  Stan Weston - Wesago Consulting.  At Craigmont the program was pretty well cut off about three to four years ago and without the adequate nutrients you are not going to get growth.  Also, with legumes, it looks as if at the start of a seeding program you will get certain species, some of which you mentioned.  These will degenerate until you get the desirable deeper rooting permanent ones.  It takes about five years to get the final species.  There is also a variation in growth due to the season as species which are present when you visit an area may not show at other times.  Your presentation is excellent, but I think that a follow-up should be made on your program and it could be subject to some variation. ANS.  We plan to follow up and revisit these areas the year after next to see what changes have occurred.  I agree with your comments about Craigmont where fertilizer had not been applied for a number of years.  In fact, that situation occurred at about half the mine sites.  Mining companies are reluctant to keep applying fertilizer for a number of years.  Nevertheless, Craigmont is a good example of an area that has persisted fairly well for four years without maintenance fertilizer and to me it looks quite promising. Don Graham - Lornex Mining Corporation.  I know your group visited Lornex where we are very much in an experimental stage.  We look forward to seeing the results of your work and are a little disappointed that they are not yet available.  Perhaps you could tell us when they will be available.  We also noticed that it is definitely advantageous to plant on glacial till rather than rock.  As you pointed out, the nature of the mining operation precludes this in a lot of cases.  For example, with till on top you take it off first then put it on the bottom, so that when the rock comes off next it is placed on top of the till.  In many cases with a large operation considerable distances are involved if stockpiling material is considered for later use.  Often there are difficulties in finding sites to stockpile which can represent appreciable increases in transportation costs. ANS.  A draft of the report will be sent to you by the end of May 1978. It will not be ready for general circulation in May, but we feel it should be sent to the mines we visited for feedback.  We are in the Proceedings of the 2nd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1978. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 66 process of computerizing all the data now and it is that process which has held us up. With regards to the waste material types, I appreciate Lornex's problems in handling their material; however, as long as people are familiar with the response in growth using different materials, that is a large step in the right: direction. Herman Vaartnou - Vaartnou and Sons.  Did you evaluate the diseases in these plants? You mentioned 25 agronomic species, perhaps you meant varieties. ANS.  No we didn't evaluate the diseases.  And yes, I meant varieties. There will be a list of the species tested (Tables 1 and 2) included in my paper in the symposium proceedings. Duane Johnson - R. M. Hardy and Associates.  Was the aerial seeding done by helicopter or fixed wing? Have you compared the relative success of each method? ANS.  Aerial seeding was done by fixed wing.  Success rates have not been compared.  

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