A one-year old mine site restoration in WA. Image: Centre for Mine Site Restoration.
BY 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.”