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New proposal for mining land restoration

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/01/2017

The most common approach to mine restoration involves replanting with the same plant species found at the original site © Auscape/UIG/REX/Shutterstock The most common approach to mine restoration involves replanting with the same plant species found at the original site A new way of managing land restoration could revolutionise how mining areas are restored worldwide, a Unitec study has found.

The process, known as "ecosystem-scale translocation", was trialled over 75 hectares at the Stockton mine near the West Coast township of Denniston.

Researchers at the Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland say it gives promise of immediate recovery for animal and plant life, better environmental outcomes and virtually no long-term management costs.

The most common approach to mine restoration involves replanting with the same plant species found at the original site, creating top soil seed banks and reintroducing key animal species.

However, Unitec environmental and animal sciences senior lecturer Dr Stephane Boyer says reclamation can take decades and result in only partial success.

"Our research shows if topsoil, vegetation and all the animal communities they contain are carefully collected and immediately transferred to a reception site, the results are astonishingly better than methods currently used around the world," he said.

"Using this translocation method, we see faster recovery of a functioning ecosystem and limited opportunities for invasion by unwanted species - a recurrent and costly problem in land restoration."

Dr Boyer said the method presented an immediate and practical way to recover disused mining sites.

It could be used by opencast mining companies and land developers when building new roads or infrastructure on areas covered by native habitat.

He said more research would be needed to understand how soil depth, subsoil substrate and hydrology could affect long term success and what function of the ecosystem might be affected by the process.

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