Tech­nol­ogy & In­no­va­tion

The Australian Mining Review - - CONTENTS - EL­IZ­A­BETH FABRI

TAILINGS dams are among the most ‘eco­log­i­cally hos­tile’ by-prod­ucts of min­ing op­er­a­tions, yet there is cur­rently a lack of suf­fi­cient tech­nol­ogy to de­liver timely and cost-ef­fec­tive restora­tion out­comes, ac­cord­ing to Curtin Uni­ver­sity’s ARC Cen­tre for Mine Site Restora­tion (CMSR).

In its new re­port One gi­ant leap for mankind: can ecopoiesis avert mine tailings dis­as­ters?, CMSR ar­gues more time is needed to al­low for ad­e­quate mine site restora­tion prac­tices, with cur­rent leg­is­la­tion pro­vid­ing a short time­frame.

“Af­ter a min­ing op­er­a­tion ceases, there is of­ten less than 10 years given to ad­e­quately re­store the used land back to a sus­tain­able eco­log­i­cal land­scape, but the time frames re­quired for soils and plant com­mu­ni­ties to de­velop nat­u­rally on tailings is at odds with this short dead­line, es­pe­cially across dif­fer­ent cli­matic zones,” CMSR leader Dr Adam Cross said.

“Es­sen­tially, in­dus­try are be­ing asked to achieve thou­sands of years of nat­u­ral soil de­vel­op­ment in un­der a decade.

“We’re not say­ing it can’t be done – we’re just say­ing it needs more time and in­dus­try need tools that can help pre­dict the tra­jec­tory and re­silience of restora­tion at early stages.”

Dr Cross said stud­ies showed nat­u­ral microbes can as­sist in soil de­vel­op­ment and foster ef­fec­tive plant growth.

“The re­search high­lights the need for the early es­tab­lish­ment of site ap­pro­pri­ate mi­cro­biota to ad­e­quately pre­pare the soil to sus­tain veg­e­ta­tion, be­fore reveg­e­ta­tion can be­gin,” Dr Cross said.

“Ad­e­quate restora­tion is much more than sim­ply sprin­kling some seeds and plant­ing some trees – ecol­o­gists need to pre­pare the soil layer by layer, in­tro­duc­ing microbes to cre­ate a sus­tain­able foun­da­tion and then move on to the above ground land­scap­ing – a process which takes a con­sid­er­able amount of time.”

“Es­sen­tially, in­dus­try are be­ing asked to achieve thou­sands of years of nat­u­ral soil de­vel­op­ment in un­der a decade.”

Im­age: Cen­tre for Mine Site Restora­tion.

A one-year old mine site restora­tion in WA.

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