Land Reclamation

Even though it is regarded as a crucial economic activity worldwide, mining has a significant negative impact on environment. Due to its nature, especially opencast mining inevitably leads to serious degradation on ecological and aesthetic values of the landscape. Topography and drainage, air, soil and water quality, vegetation including forest ecosystem, noise levels and ground vibrations, human health and habitation can be listed as the typical parameters that are mainly affected by opencast mining activities. When the extraction of reserve is over, the altered landscape has to be reclaimed in order to relieve the damaging effects of opencast mining and restore the landscape and its immediate surroundings.

On the other hand, reclamation of post-mining landscape is a very challenging task since there is no unique reclamation planning scheme for such landscapes, and it highly depends on the site-specific characteristics. Therefore, successful and sustainable reclamation requires interdisciplinary approach leading to an integrated and effective proposal to restore ecological, hydrological, aesthetic, recreational and other functions of the post-mining landscape. Different methods and approaches for the reclamation of opencast mine sites have been proposed by several disciplines such as landscape architecture, environmental and mining engineering, forestry, archeology and social sciences.



Methods and Techniques for Reclamation


The process of choosing the ost appropriate technique for the reclamation is often a painstaking task, and many economic and operational parameters (i.e. process applicability, effectiveness and costs, process development status and availablity and operational requirements) should be taken into account, as well as several factors such as process limitations, monitoring needs, potential environment impact, health and safety needs and post-treatment management requirements. Additionally, large extend of areas withing the mining and industrial structures (i.e. traffic network, electricity grid, pipelines, canalization streams, storage areas, industrial parks etc.) also increase the complexity of rehabilitation works, and restrain the possibilities.

In reclamation of post-mining landscapes, there are generally tow basic motives: determinism and contingency, and the processes related with the former are mostly considered. Several factors associated with the latter have also significant role on the success of the reclamation, and these factors are often unpredictable and can be grouped in four categories:

  1. Initial conditions (natural climate and topography, type and abundance of topsoil)
  2. Natural perturbations (droughts, extreme rainfall events, frost periods, pests)
  3. Influence of the surrounding ecosystems and people (runoff and sediment flows, grazing, hunting, land uses)
  4. Human contingencies (modification/intermittence of mining operations; mistakes in the performance of reclamation works changes in legal rules, etc.)
Additionally, it is necessary to consider the reclaimed areas as open ecosystems that interact with their surrounding environment, so landscaping schemes and reclamation work must be included in any proposal for the development of a mine that broadly evaluates the impacts of open mine sites on local residents, the landscape and the environment. The following points should be considered to improve the performance of opencast mine reclamation

  • Simultaneous integration of mining and reclamation activities to optimize the opportunities offered by mining operation
  • Interactive development of reclamation projects by all actors and to have a consensus on the final objectives for the reclaimed areas
  • Specific research to acquire detailed knowledge about the reference ecosystem in order to adopt the general protocols for reclamation to local conditions
  • Plan for monitoring and survey to check, improve, or redirect the applied practices.
Naturally, not every mine has the same motives and methods for site rehabilitation, and it is important to point out that it is not feasible to restore all mine sites due to economic and operational considerations. However, even though disturbed by mining activities, all post-mining lands eventually inherit some economic, recreational and esthetic potential. Hence, discovering the unique potential of mined land and choosing appropriate methods and measures, which actually form the core of reclamation, are necessary for the successful transformation of this potential into a sustained capability. In order to obtain satisfactory results in reclamation, special attention must be paid to the post-mining use of the land and its potential functions (i.e., pasture, hayland, recreational areas, wildlife habitat, wetlands, fishing ponds etc.), together with the implementation of environmental conservation and land reclamation programs to minimize the negative environmental effects.

a) The original Jarrahdale crusher circle before its closure in 1998, and b) the same crusher circle site at Jarrahdale, after rehabilitation has been completed (Alcao 2012)

A site reclaimed by Starvaggi Industries in West Virginia is developed into the Star Lake Amphitheater: a) post-mining landscape, b) after the reclamation (Mineral Information Institute 2012)

Concluding


One of the human footprints that cause drastic changes on environment is mining. Although it has a significant contribution to world economy and an indisputable social influence on the life of communities, its devastating negative impacts on environment cannot be disregarded. Particularly, opencast mining activities severely alter the topography and the physical conditions of the atmosphere, and inversely affect plant life, soil conditions, wildlife habitats, and water resources in the mining area and in its immediate surroundings.

As a result of above mentioned factors, post-mining landscapes lose their previous aesthetic, ecological and socioeconomic values. If effective mitigation measures are not taken to decrease the adverse environmental impacts, environmental degradation due to opencast mining operations may be irreversible.

The ultimate goal of reclamation is two-fold: i) to sustainably establish the aesthetic and ecological conditions of the post-mining landscape so that it become as much compatible as with surrounding undisturbed lands, and ii) to regain or enhance the productive capacity and stability of the land so that it contributes to community’s economic and social welfare in a more efficient way.



For more details on Land Reclamation you can read the

Reclamation of Degraded Lands due to Opencast Mining
By Nazan Kuter


3 comments:

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