British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Thirty years of reclamation research in the alpine and subalpine regions near Grande Cache, Alberta Macyk, Terry M.


The Alberta Research Council, Inc. (ARC) has conducted a surface coal mine reclamation research program in association with the operations of Smoky River Coal Ltd. near Grande Cache, Alberta since 1971. The main objective of this long-term study was to develop and refine cost-effective methods of establishing a self-sustaining vegetation cover that is in harmony with adjacent undisturbed areas. Soil handling practice development involved the completion of soil surveys and recommendations regarding soil salvage strategies in these regions where salvageable soil materials are minimal to nonexistent. Recommendations pertinent to coversoil replacement strategies were developed. Plot studies to determine the suitability and adaptability of various agronomic and native grasses and legumes as well as fertilization trials were established and monitored annually. In the early 1970's the lack of native seed necessitated the use of introduced species for large scale operational revegetation work in the subalpine region. Long-term monitoring results indicated that desirable introduced species will thrive and reproduce at these elevations and that native herbaceous species as well as trees and shrubs will invade the revegetated areas. Revegetation research activities in the alpine involved the use of native grasses and legumes indigenous to the area. Container and bare root conifer seedlings and cuttings of deciduous species were utilized initially to establish trees and shrubs in the subalpine. Direct seeding has also proven to be a viable method for establishment of trees and shrubs in the subalpine. Automated climate monitoring stations were installed at different elevations at three locations in the study area yielding data that support the conclusion that climate is the most limiting factor to reclamation success in the subalpine and alpine regions. Research results were transferred to the operational scale throughout the term of the study. Recommendations regarding appropriate reclamation practices for the regions including soil salvage and replacement strategies, revegetation techniques and successional processes have been developed. The success of reclamation in the study area is measured by the "productivity" achieved and the presence of and utilization by wildlife.

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