British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Processes and functions : a new approach for mine reclamation Polster, David


Natural processes and ecological functions have been restoring natural disturbances since the advent of terrestrial vegetation over 450 million years ago. Understanding how these processes operate can allow these recovery forces to be harnessed for the reclamation of mining disturbances. Identification of the filters or constraints that are preventing recovery is the first step in defining an effective restoration program. Compaction, erosion and steep slopes are three of the most common filters at large mines. Once these are addressed, selection of revegetation species can be undertaken. Determining the species that are naturally establishing around the edges of the mine will narrow the list. Pioneering species such as willows, poplars and alder are common pioneering species throughout British Columbia. These species initiate recovery processes and functions in disturbed areas. In addition to filters and species, identification of the structures that may have been lost in the mining process will help to re-establish the functions that may be related to this lost structure. Large woody debris (old logs) in piles or individually either standing or lying on the ground, can help to restore nutrient cycling functions as well as enhance wildlife diversity. Rock piles can be used to create structure, enhancing diversity on otherwise flat areas (e.g. tailings ponds). Making surfaces rough and loose, modeled on trees turning up root wads in the forest, creates instant topographic heterogeneity while addressing issues of compaction and erosion. Application of natural processes and the re-establishment of recovery functions can reduce the cost of reclamation while re-integrating the site to the natural systems that have served to maintain vegetation on the earth for millennia, creating sustainable mining.

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