Soil Amendments in Mine Closure, Central Interior, British Columbia

Lead Researcher(s):  L. Fraser

Project ID:  2016-068

Key Research Organization(s):  Thompson Rivers University

Project Location:  Central Interior

Strategic Focus Area:  Minerals


This project aims to answer the question: Does topsoil stored in piles for the purposes of future mine site reclamation remain viable over the life of a mine (10-20 years)?

The Need

In British Columbia, mine operators are required to reclaim disturbed land to a defined condition upon mine closure. One effective approach is to stockpile soil and its contained microbial communities prior to mining and redistribute the stored topsoil after mining has ceased.

Topsoil, the uppermost 20 centimetres of soil rich in organic matter and host to most plant roots, is important in encouraging regrowth of native vegetation. These topsoil stockpiles can reach five to 10 meters deep and sit idle for the duration of mine operation, which can be 10-20 years. Few studies have been undertaken to identify changes to microbial health in these stockpiles over time and current land reclamation practices are generally based on financial and logistical constraints rather than scientific knowledge.

Project Goals

This project will measure the soil microbiota through DNA sequencing to establish the ‘health’ of soil stockpiles at numerous mines around BC, and test if soil amendments, such as compost or wood chips, or the age or height of the stacks improves the health of the topsoil.

Project Benefits

This research will generate information to guide planning, implementation and management of mine reclamation projects that are more effective, less expensive and lead to greater social acceptance of mine activities. Ongoing developments in mine reclamation science is an investment in the long-term health of the land base that our economy and communities depend on. Better understandings of the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem function as it relates to site restoration efforts is essential to developing mine operational strategies.

Survey Area

Numerous mine site around BC, including New Afton Mine, Highland Valley Copper Mine, Mt. Polley Mine and others.

How was the data collected?

Data will be generated from analysis of samples collected at a minimum of six sites per mine. Soil samples will be collected several times per year at the same location and sent for chemical, physical and metagenomic analysis. Soil characterization will include mineralogy, porewater chemistry, and organic matter content. A DNA sequencing library will be developed.