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The physical limitations to vegetation establishment of some southern British Columbia mine waste materials Morton, James William

Abstract

Vegetation establishment on mine wastes is ultimately limited by the edaphic properties of the wastes. This thesis examines, characterizes and interprets the physical properties of some southern British Columbia mine wastes:- to elucidate the feasibility of various reclamation procedures. Vaste areas, including both mill tailings, rock dumps and adjacent natural soils are characterized. The project primarily addresses three areas in British Columbia affected by sulfide mining activities; the Princeton area, the Highland Valley area and the Kimberley area. Waste materials examined were derived from the Similkameen, Copper Mountain, Lornex, Bethlehem and Sullivan mines. Minor examination of the now revegetated Jersey Mine tailings located near Salmo, B.C. was also included. Field work involved mapping waste materials and natural soils and then systematically sampling the various units delineated. Laboratory methods were employed to define and compare the properties of samples collected. Limited water storage capacity was found to be a major problem in waste rock dump material. Mill tailings were found to have acceptable available water storage capacities. Some mill tailings may have aeration porosity deficiencies when wet. Cation exchange capacities, while usually adequate in waste rock dump materials, are sometimes very low in mill tailings; a factor that will present serious fertility problems in revegetation. Some adjacent coarse coniferous forest soils were found to have similar properties to waste rock dump material while some adjacent grass dominated soils were found to have similar properties to the mine tailings. Waste rock dump material appears best suited to eventual revegetation by aborescent species, while mill tailings appear best suited to eventual revegetation by grass or forb species. Soil processes were found to be both active and rapid in both types of waste material.

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