Tailings and Mine Waste Conference

Assessing reclamation ready tailings materials using outdoor terrestrial mesocosms Small, Christina C.; Woosaree, Jay; Naeth, M. Anne


Current challenges in oil sands mine closure include the integration of tailings into reclaimed landscapes to ensure that materials are geotechnically stable; have acceptable soil; water and run-off quality; permit soil development consistent with regional soils; and, have ecological aspects of form and function consistent with the boreal forest. Infrastructure available in Alberta to facilitate feasible, controlled and replicated testing of tailings materials under realistic climate, environmental and exposure conditions is lacking. The Terrestrial Mesocosm Facility was designed to provide a relevant venue for testing engineered ecosystems, such as reconstructed soils. Mesocosms can include sufficient biotic and abiotic components to confer stability under replicated and controlled conditions; experiments can be conducted on time frames ranging from months to years. The facility represents an integrative scientific approach for investigating ecological and environmental systems by utilizing both laboratory and field data to develop complex assessments of indirect and synergistic ecosystem responses. Simultaneous testing of different scenarios can be completed as a feasible first step in identifying reclamation strategies to implement on-site; associated long-term monitoring may provide valuable information necessary for determining upland vegetation establishment success. This paper introduces a tool for testing tailings for reclamation planning and environmental effects assessment.

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