British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposia

High elevation native species island model for mine reclamation, Quintette Operating Corporation Bittman, Kim 1997-12-31

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Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation HIGH ELEVATION NATIVE SPECIES ISLAND MODEL FOR MINE RECLAMATION, QUINTETTE OPERATING CORPORATION K.K. Bittman, B.A. Quintette Operating Corporation Box 1500  Tumbler Ridge, B.C. V0C 2W0 ABSTRACT The Mesa/Wolverine open pit coal mine at Quintette Operating Corporation is located at 1500 to 1850 metres (m) A.S.L at latitude 55°03'42" north. At this location, the chosen mining method was top down mining, with its coincident high vertical height waste dumps. To accommodate final reclamation permit requirements for land capability, the reduction of long uninterrupted slope lengths is desired (such as wraparound dumping and reclamation earthwork) however, large scale resloping is not envisaged. To meet or exceed pre-mining land capability on these waste dumps, a management model of high elevation native species colonization is employed at Quintette. To obtain their reclamation goals, Quintette applies many non-traditional revegetation materials and application methods. These ecological measures (versus agricultural) are required to ensure an outcome which fulfills end land use objectives. Statistical projections of high elevation post-reclamation land capability under a native species island model regime, indicates equivalency with pre-mining land capability. This paper will illustrate the earthwork and native species island modeling utilized to achieve pre-mining land capability at the high elevation Mesa/Wolverine mine. INTRODUCTION Quintette Operating Corporation is located in northeastern British Columbia, approximately 100 km from Chetwynd and 200 km from Dawson Creek. The town of Tumbler Ridge, located 20 km from the mine, was built in 1981 to service and house the mine and its employees (current population of 4,500). Quintette is an open pit coal mine that produces 4.2 million tonnes/year of metallurgical coal for export to Japan. The mine comprises two operational areas; Mesa/Wolverine at high elevation, which is 1200 ha in size and Shikano at 750 ha located in the river valley. A new pit area called Babcock Little 12 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation Windy is now being pioneered at high elevation. The Phase 2, or ultimate configuration of the Babcock mine, was approved under Mine Work Systems amendment by the Ministry of Employment and Investment in July, 1997. The mines are conventional open pit truck and shovel operations with coincident large rock dump areas and pits with rock highwalls. Figure 1 illustrates the Quintette property and infrastructure. The Quintette mine is located in the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountain Hart Ranges at latitude 55°03'42" north. Mesa/Wolverine is situated in the Alpine tundra and Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir biogeoclimatic zones. The region is characterized by long, cold winters and short, cool summers. The growing period (frost free days) at high elevation averages 60 days. An average of 500 mm of precipitation falls in the form of rain and snow each year. The end land use objective at the Mesa/Wolverine mine is the re-establishment of high elevation wildlife habitat. Target wildlife species identified for the high elevation reclamation plan include mountain goat, grizzly, woodland caribou, fox, ptarmigan, marmot and raptors. Native island modeling for mine reclamation was chosen as a practical reclamation mechanism due to 1) plant succession and wildlife patch theories which indicate island modeling can achieve objectives 2) Quintette native plant species research and 3) existing constraints; specifically, agronomic legumes are known to die off within one season and bulk high elevation native seeds are not currently available, therefore large scale seeding programs are not possible. The intention of the Quintette reclamation program is to assist, rather than supplant the natural restorative process. The main objective is therefore to stimulate the re-establishment of indigenous flora and fauna on spoil dumps in an ecological manner. A description of the program is provided herein. RECLAMATION PERMIT The Quintette reclamation permit was last amended in October 1991 further to the need for Teck Mining Group to establish current liability for reclamation to 2003. The 13 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  14 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation reclamation bond was set to fulfill costs for total reclamation to that date. Renewal of the permit is required in 1997 which will update mining, reclamation and closure plans. The Quintette reclamation permit was formulated by the BC Government in 1991 to guide and monitor the recommended program of native island modeling. Conditions involving native island expansion, ecological succession and land capability were agreed to. Among the various innovative permit conditions, the following were established: • "The level of land capability, and the percentage of land in a given capability class, to be achieved on reclaimed areas shall not be less than existed prior to mining on an average property basis  unless evidence is provided which demonstrates the impracticality of doing so. " • "Native species islands in the Mesa/Wolverine area shall be established and the land revegetated to either a self sustaining state or to a state where the ecological succession of native species islands will lead to achievement of the approved land use capability within 20 years." In order to achieve these permit conditions, operational reclamation policies were formulated and agreed to by Senior management. For each mining area, reclamation procedures are provided which comprise four general phases; specifically, scrap removal, placement of suitable material for reclamation, earthwork (dump material modification) and timing for all phases including agronomic seeding and planting of native islands. Operational budgets are established each year and equipment allocated to conduct the large amount of earthwork required. RECLAMATION PROGRAM The intention of the Mesa/Wolverine reclamation program is to provide a cover of agronomic grass species on waste dumps within which diverse communities, or "islands" of alpine native plants are established. These strategically located islands will allow for the dissemination of native forb, grass, sedge, shrub and tree seed by wind and other means to the reclaimed agronomic areas, thereby facilitating plant succession. The program begins with the removal of scrap materials (tires, steel, etc.) from the spoil dump. Where reclamation material is available, stockpiles are established on or near the 15 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation dump platform. These "free dump piles" are later modified to accommodate wildlife habitat enhancement plans (mounds, microsites, island areas). On an annual basis, abandoned dump areas are chosen for reclamation and the pit operations department allocates equipment and trained operators to conduct the agreed upon reclamation work. Equipment hours required to complete the plans are then estimated and used for budgeting the time required. Fall seeding is the norm at Quintette, therefore equipment work is completed from June (when the snow is completely gone) to September. Waste Dump Modifications As described, the mine plan comprises top down mining and allows for wraparound dump lifts (commencing from successive benches in the pit) to be established on the face of the initial 300 m slope face. Figure 2 depicts the Mesa north rock dumps. The aspect of these dump slopes is north and the angle is natural angle of repose (37°). Wraparound dumps exist from approximately 1750 to 1500 m at a variable 20 to 70 m height interval.                     Figure 2: Overview of Mesa North Waste Dumps - Perspective from East On these interim lifts, the dump reclamation procedure is divided into two categories; that of modifications to slopes and to benches. In the first category, either berm removal and 16 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation crest rounding or partial to full recontouring of the slope is conducted dependent on dump height and location. Figure 3 illustrates a D10 dozer performing dump recontouring and Figure 4, the resulting landscape.   17Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation In some instances, dumps with an uninterrupted vertical height of 50 to 80 m are dozer terraced to reduce slope angle and improve capability on benches (Figure 5).  Figure 5: Terracing of a 70 m, Single Lift Dump On the dump slopes that remain at a steep angle, a "reclamation chain" with rotating weight is dragged over the surface to roughen the material and provide seed microsites. In cases where availability of fine waste material is adequate, free dump piles are pushed over the berm and deposited on the surface of the dump slopes. The material is then blended and roughened using the reclamation chain. Typically however, existing materials on slopes in the upper portion of the dump complex are acceptable for seeding as is. Material quality subsequent to recontouring and terracing is also satisfactory as an agronomic seedbed. With respect to the second category of reclamation (benches) fine reclamation material is not readily available, therefore, preparations on dump benches or haul roads must comprise the ripping of compacted surfaces. As shown in Figure 6, a technique we call "grader gridding" has been very successful in establishing good agronomic growth on the flats. Gridding, or cross hatch ripping is conducted to a depth of 30 cm using a 16G grader with 5 shanks or D10 with 3 shanks. 18 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  Figure 6: Grader Conducting Bench "Gridding" at High Elevation Agronomic Revegetation Programs Subsequent to fall completion of annual dump earthwork, agronomic seed and fertilizer are applied to the dump areas by helicopter (Figure 7). In late September of each year, grass seed is applied by helicopter at a rate of 75 kg/ha using the seed mixture shown in Table 1.  19Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  Figure 7: Agronomic Seed and Fertilizer Application Fertilizer is applied by helicopter or fixed wing airplane at a formulation of 26-10-10 at 336 kg/ha along with the seed or in the spring of the following year. Through ongoing research, we find that maintenance fertilization should be conducted on these agronomic reclaim sites once every two years. Maintenance fertilizer is using liquid foliar fertilizer from a fixed wing airplane at a formulation of 24-14-10 and 7 of sulphur at 30 kg/ha. At this phase of the program, only agronomic grasses are used to provide the matrix of vegetation into which the native species will invade. Research conducted from 1986 to 1994 has indicated that agronomic legumes (all varieties of alfalfa, clover, sainfoin and milkvetch) do not survive at this elevation and latitude beyond the first season. However, new alpine legume ecovars will be used if and when they become available in bulk. In any event, due to problems with the current success of agronomic species, legumes must be introduced through a different means. Figure 8 provides a photo of the revegetation success on two upper wraparound waste dump complexes in Mesa/Wolverine. 20 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  Figure 8: Reclamation Success on Mesa North Waste Dumps The final lift of waste rock below these wraparounds, which comprise uninterrupted slopes up to 170 m in height, are a different situation altogether. Although full-scale resloping is not envisaged, investigations into partial resloping scenarios are in progress. As pre-mining land capability assessments were not required by the BC Government when Mesa/Wolverine was first approved in 1982, Quintette commissioned a study in 1996 to ascertain the pre-mining land capability and produce an assessment of post-reclamation land capability to ensure equivalency may be achieved. At the time of publishing, the consultant has indicated that post reclamation land capability will be equivalent to the pre-mining land capability. This is consistent with results of a comparative pre to post mining land capability study submitted with the Babcock Windy Pit mine application (Environmental Insight, 1997). In both mining scenarios, the native species island model was integral to the reclamation plan. 21 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation HIGH ELEVATION NATIVE ISLAND MODEL The next phase of the reclamation program is the establishment of native species islands in strategic locations on the reclaimed agronomic matrixes. Native species are important for increasing biotic and structural diversity, however, the availability of high elevation plant materials from natural sources or commercial sources, is limited. The objective of the reclamation plans and practices involving native species is to develop abiotic and biotic conditions that promote 'natural' succession by enhancing invasion and colonization of different microorganisms, plant life-forms and animal species (Smyth, 1995). Therefore, internal native seed and seedling development programs are a very important aspect of Quintette reclamation operations. The plant types, spacing, configuration of islands, locations on dumps and planting techniques were investigated at various locations in Mesa/Wolverine commencing in 1990. Transplant establishment of a diverse lot of native species is required for three reasons: (1) time and establishment difficulties with direct seeding, (2) low in situ inoculum densities of microbiological populations in the spoil and (3) establishment of spatial patterns (Environmental Insight, 1997). One such native species research trial is depicted in Figure 9 wherein several different species were planted in rows on a dump bench at 1700 m. With several operational questions answered, the native island establishment process commenced in earnest during 1992 with the first operational native plant island established on a waste dump at 1630 m. Since that time, a total of 60,000 high elevation seedlings have been planted on waste dumps in the Mesa/Wolverine mine. In 1996, a total of 65 distinct islands were established in various areas. In 1997, another 15,000 seedlings were being tended for outplanting in the fall. 22 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  Figure 9: Native Species Research Trial at High Elevation Seed Collection, Processing, Propagation and Planting Seed collection begins during the second week of July and continues until the third week of September. Portable gas powered vacuums are used for species such as Dryas, Oxytropis, Populus and Salix and gas powered Seed Strippers™ were used for the grasses, sedges and the remaining forbs (Smyth, 1995). Figure 10 illustrates the vacuum in operation at a wild collection site. Seed for shrubs and trees are collected by hand. The native high elevation grasses are relatively easy to collect and process mechanically while several forbs require additional preparation with a blender before screening. Many forbs require tumbling before separation and cleaning while Astragalus alpinus, Oxytropis podocarpa and Potentilla diversifolia require an additional blending step. Shrub species are generally blended with water and dried prior to screening and blowing. 23 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation                   In terms of native seed acquisition, the required plant reconnaissance and seed processing times represented the greatest cost.     Therefore, to be more cost efficient,  a seed multiplication area was established.   The multiplication area consists of several rows or patches of suitable native species. Seed collection commenced in 1993, and seed quality, volume and collection efficiency have been good. However, seed from this facility cannot replace 'wild' population seed. Therefore, both 'wild' and multiplication seeds are blended to ensure sufficient genetic variability of the reestablished species populations. Seed pre-treatments are required for several species, particularly shrubs. Except for the shrubs and trees, most species do not require greenhouse conditions in order to achieve transplantable size based on 'plug' rooting density and shoot growth. Once the seed stock is sufficiently processed, seed is sown into containers and propagated in the Quintette nursery (Figure 11)   24 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  Figure 11: Overview of Summer Operations in the Quintette Greenhouse Facility Most grasses, sedges and forbs require only one growing season in the nursery. Cuttings propagation of such species as Arctostaphylos uva ursi, Salix arctica, Salix barclayi and Salix prolixa required two growing seasons to develop adequate root systems. Once the plants are hardened off, these seedlings are planted by trained tree planting contractors onto the recontoured slopes or benches of the waste dump. 'Lifting' of seedlings occurred immediately prior to transplanting. All species were dormant when transplanted. Dump materials are usually roughened up by grader or dozer just prior to the transplanting program. Figure 12 depicts the planting of nursery stock on a high elevation bench surface. Each seedling also receives a Gromax™ packet (fertilizer at 12-5-8 plus gel) which is secured on the surface near the plug. Some of the species currently used in the high elevation native island program are listed in Table 2. 25 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  Through the native species research program, a total of 46 varieties were chosen from an original listing of 95 potential alpine species using several selection techniques. This included general retention of species for important wildlife needs, preliminary research results and efficacy of seed collection, processing and propagation. Although seedling programs are somewhat costly, the final result is timely and successful. In the longer term, direct seeding is an option open for final reclamation operations and for those species that could not be nursery propagated but are considered essential for wildlife habitat.                       26 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  Island Configuration and Locations The native species island model employed at Quintette can be visualized as an array of strategically positioned seed production and/or wildlife habitat patches embedded within a matrix of seeded agronomic species. The function of the matrix is soil development, erosion control and facilitation of wildlife migration. Establishment of islands and the matrix are designed to be functionally integrated in order to maximize ecological interactions both within the disturbed area and between disturbed and non-disturbed areas (Environmental Insight, 1997). Wildlife corridors between islands, established through planting of certain species and/or modification of physical characteristics, will also be established in the future to integrate the whole. The configuration of islands established to date is extremely variable, ranging from a random planting of several defined species in a 30 by 30 m circle to a 2 ha island of a large 27 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation number of diverse species. To depict the strategic locations of the islands established in Mesa/Wolverine, Figure 13 provides a CAD representation of island establishment on an annual basis. The prevailing wind direction (SW) is shown which facilitates the dissemination of seed onto the matrix of revegetated or future revegetated waste dump areas. Figure 14 illustrates a successful island on dump material at high elevation and the relationship between the agronomic grass matrix and native plants.  Figure 14: Established Native Species Island at 1600 m A.S.L. A monitoring program to examine the ongoing dissemination of seed and establishment of plants into the agronomic zones was initiated in 1994 to comply with permit conditions. In two growing seasons, transplants on a dump at 1640 m produced viable seed and new plants were establishing up to 15 m away from the original colony (Bittman, 1995). Monitoring conducted in 1996 indicated the islands were continuing to expand and several species had demonstrated the ability to persist and reproduce. Table 3 provides a listing of those species which were excellent colonizers. 28 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  CONCLUSION The intention of the Mesa/Wolverine reclamation program is to provide a cover of agronomic grass species on waste dumps within which diverse communities, or "islands" of alpine native plants are established. These strategically located islands will allow for the dissemination of native forb, grass, sedge, shrub and tree seed by wind and other means to the reclaimed agronomic areas, thereby facilitating plant succession. Mine planning of dump wraparounds and the earthwork conducted on an annual basis, both serve to reduce the overall slope angle of the large waste dumps at high elevation. This allows for successful revegetation of dump materials, thus providing an agronomic matrix. Thereafter, the use of native species in island and corridor configurations will allow an expansion of native flora outward into the matrix thus facilitating plant succession over the entire landscape. Fauna will also move into the reclaimed areas following the native flora. Using this native island model, Quintette will be successful in revegetating the land to either a self sustaining state or a state where the ecological succession of native species islands will lead to achievement of the approved land use capability within 20 years. With 30 Proceedings of the 21st Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium  in Cranbrook, BC, 1997. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation this success, re-establishment of high elevation wildlife habitat and populations will also be achieved. To further confirm this premise, statistical projections of high elevation post-reclamation land capability under a native species island model regime, indicates equivalency with pre-mining land capability. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I wish to acknowledge the technical competence of Dr. Clint Smyth (Environmental Insight) both in implementing the native species research program when employed by Quintette Operating Corporation and in completing a stellar pre/post mining land capability assessment (along with Jim Poriz of Environmental Insight). In addition, I gratefully acknowledge the efficient and professional competence of Mr. Ken Latreille who currently handles the native species program at the mine. REFERENCES Bittman, K.K. 1995. Innovative Reclamation at Quintette: High Elevation/High Latitude Challenges. Proceedings of the 1995 Mine Reclamation Symposium. June, 1995. Environmental Insight. 1997. Environmental Impact Statement for Soils, Vegetation and Wildlife and Reclamation Planning for the Babcock Mountain Project. April, 1997. Smyth, C.S. 1995. Reclamation Research at Quintette Operating Corporation. Proceedings of the 1995 Mine Reclamation Symposium. June, 1995. 31 

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