Pollutants in the environment are most often just resources that are out of place. Soil erosion turns valuable topsoil into a pollutant: sediment. Protection and/or preservation of topsoil is essential for timely, cost-effective reclamation and restoration of mined areas. Where topsoil cannot be removed and replaced in a progressive manner, it should be stockpiled and protected until such time it can be placed and redistributed on re-graded mined areas. This principle applies not only to area-wide activities—such as strip mining—but also to linear, ancillary areas such as roads and slurry pipeline rights-of-way. Everything that is needed for successful establishment of stabilizing vegetation in final reclamation is contained in the upper most layers of the soil—seeds, viable plant roots, soil bacteria, nutrients. Take care of your topsoil . . . and your topsoil will take care of you.
Once vegetation is removed as part of land disturbance activities—whether they are area-wide or linear in nature—it needs to be replaced with temporary mulch that will last as long as it takes for an area to be reclaimed with permanent, stabilizing vegetation. It is far less expensive to use a mulch to protect disturbed soils from raindrop impact erosion than it is to repair rills and gullies down slope or to remove sediment from stormwater discharges through active treatment systems.
A typical construction slope can be used to illustrate how erosion control and compliance with stormwater regulations can be addressed most effectively—from the top down—through implementation of a system, or “Treatment Train” of complementary erosion, or “source” controls combined with runoff and sediment control practices.
Finally, there are some basic principles that can guide reclamation design and implementation on mining projects. The term “aboriginality” has been coined to describe some of these principles, which are:
- That one can learn by observing the examples of past reclamation in the mining industry (or the lack thereof );
- That we can extract the good examples and eliminate the poor practices from past activities through proper planning and implementation;
- That we should look at the physical and biological resources available to determine what rehabilitation nature would achieve in our absence
- That we should “set the table” for that natural succession by designing and implementing practices that enable and do not conflict with ultimate land use; and,
- That we should look beyond our own life spans in terms of our reclamation and restoration goals.
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