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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reclamation of strip mine overburden through tree planting Lowenberger, Frederick John

Abstract

Kaiser Resources Limited is extracting coal from a major strip mining operation near Sparwood, B.C. In spite of the recognized economic benefits which accrue from this mine, serious consideration must he given to its potential deleterious effects. Problem areas include accelerated erosion, water pollution, danger of slides and a barren landscape in and around the mine. A reclamation program has been initiated to minimize these problems. It includes land-use planning, physical alteration of topography, revegetation and subsequent tending of reclaimed land. This thesis is related to the revegetation aspect of the above program in that it investigates the feasibility of establishing and growing coniferous trees on overburden. Development of plantations on these mine wastes fits well into the overall reclamation plan as seventy percent of the area to be reclaimed is best suited to growing trees. In addition, trees provide a suitable long-term means of minimizing erosion and pollution. Field work carried out to provide necessary data included the establishment of spring and fall replications of ten sample plots on mined sites around Michel and Natal. One plot was also set out on a small inactive area at the high elevation mine site on Harmer Ridge. The plots were situated and designed so that the effects of site, elevation, species choice, type of planting and time of planting on survival and growth could be studied. Planting was carried out during September 1970 and May 1971. The final collection of data took place during May 1972. Results indicate that trees are suitable for use in the revegetation of the residuals of the Kaiser mine. Analysis reveals spring planting survival to be much higher than that obtained from fall planting. Trees grown in the organic soil plug prototype container show better survival and growth than do bare-root seedlings or stock grown in plastic bullets. The optimum age of planting stock appears to be two years. Trees were successfully established over a wide range of elevations. Of the three species planted, Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine and Engelmann spruce, lodgepole pine did best between elevations of 3500 to 5000 feet. Above 5000 feet Engelmann spruce gave superior results. High mortality occurred on compacted sites and south facing slopes. Successful reforestation of compacted areas will require some form of site preparation to take place prior to planting. Plants other than trees, such as shrubs and grasses, should be used to regenerate south slopes. Successful plantation establishment will be dependent upon the control of both erosion and accidental damage. Proper planning at the highest management level will be required to minimize accidental damage while a variety of site preparation techniques will have to be utilized to control erosion. Further studies of reclamation problems are still required to ensure successful long-term results. Future research possibilities are therefore suggested.

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