British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Impacts of one time biosolids and fertilizer application on long-term metal and nutrient concentrations on two tailings ponds in the BC Southern Interior Phillips, M. E.; Gardner, W. G.; Pypker, T. G.


Previous research has demonstrated that the use of organic amendments, specifically biosolids, can address limitations to initial vegetation establishment on mine tailings. It is less understood how these systems will function in the long term. In 2015, a field study at Teck Highland Valley Copper in the BC Southern Interior was conducted to determine the long term effects of fertilizer and biosolids on nutrients and elemental concentrations in two tailings ponds. Seventeen years prior, biosolids were applied in a randomized complete block design at rates 50, 100, 150, 200, and 250 Mg haˉ¹. The biosolids treatments continue to demonstrate a very clear increase to the nutrient status of the tailings, while the fertilizer treatment does not statistically differ from the control treatments. There are also still elevated levels of metals within biosolids treated plots, but results vary by metal with many showing a plateau, where additional biosolids do not increase their concertation. With site specific planning, metal concentrations can be controlled below levels of concern, while at the same time promote nutrient cycling. In conclusion, it appears a one-time biosolids application can assist reclamation in a trajectory towards a self-sustaining state. Further research is also being done examining the plant community and soil development.

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