Evolving Approaches for Mine Reclamation in British Columbia
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Workshop Goals and Content:
Reclamation of lands disturbed by mining in its current configuration in BC is a relatively new and complex undertaking involving attempts to return ecosystem traits and functions on large landscapes over long time scales. This is happening within a context of rapidly shifting physical conditions—like changing climate—and societal expectations. And there are numerous technical challenges, including two key issues:
- BC regulations around mine reclamation require that land capability for specified land uses be restored to levels found before mining, but understanding how to measure this capability and demonstrate its return is difficult.
- A key driver of mine environmental performance involves water—its movement and interactions with the mining landscape. Thus, an essential consideration in reclamation is how reclaimed landscape moderates water cycles.
For the most part, these challenges have been addressed through largely qualitative or semi-quantitative approaches relying on professional judgment. We have been developing quantitative approaches that support the more precise and objective design of soils- and vegetation-related components of mine reclamation and provide clear rationale and documentation of the bases of these designs. This workshop will introduce these approaches. Our goal is to give agrologists interested in mine reclamation an update on the state of practice in the field and initial familiarity with available software developed to support reclamation design in BC.
Justin Straker, M.Sc., PAg (BC, AB, ON)— I am a soil scientist and forest ecologist and a founder of the Integral Ecology Group in Duncan, British Columbia. I have over 20 years of experience in applied terrestrial ecology, with a primary focus on identifying and repairing the effects of human activities on terrestrial ecosystems. I have worked extensively on mine-reclamation research, design, assessment, and review projects, with experience in hard-rock, soft-rock, and oil-sands surface mines throughout Canada. My reclamation work over the last decade has concentrated on ecological (soils and vegetation) aspects of cover design, on developing improved methods for estimating hydrological regimes on reclamation sites, and on understanding the ecohydrological interactions of soils/vegetation reclamation treatments with larger hydrological cycles in mine-waste landforms.
Trevor Baker, B.Sc., AAg —I am a soil scientist at Integral Ecology Group specializing in plant-soil interactions and reclamation cover design, with eight years of experience in mine reclamation planning, monitoring, and research. I have been involved in numerous projects on mine sites in Canada in both pre-disturbance and reclamation environments. I came to the Integral Ecology Group from the UBC Biometeorology Lab. I worked in the instrumentation of disturbed forested ecosystems to measure water and carbon balances at the soil, plant, and atmosphere levels. I am currently pursuing my M.Sc. in Soil Science at UBC focused on developing water-balance-based ecological classification tools for use in mine reclamation.