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Soil factors affecting revegetation success on nickel waste dumps

George, K. and Bell, R.W. (2000) Soil factors affecting revegetation success on nickel waste dumps. In: Soils 2000 : making our science more useable : proceedings of conference Muresk Institute of Agriculture, 11 - 13 July, Northam, WA, Australia pp. 63-67.

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The primary objective of this research was to investigate the constraints for successful mine waste dump revegetation at the Bulong Nickel Operation (BNO) in the arid Eucalyptus woodlands of the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. The chemical properties of two waste dump substrates (overburden) and one sub-soil at BNO were investigated to determine the nature of the material and its suitability for growth of two local species, the legume, Acacia acuminata ssp. burkittii and the salt tolerant blue bush, Maireana pyramidata.

The most serious constraint affecting successful plant growth on the waste dumps at BNO was the inhospitable nature of the overburden used to construct the dumps. Maireana tolerated the sodicity and salinity of the waste dump substrate but grew poorly especially on one of the substrates that contained very high levels of 0.01 M CaCl2-extractable Ni. Many Acacia plants died on this substrate. The difficulty with growing plants satisfactorily in the pot experiment suggested that the establishment of sustainable ecosystems capable of restoring arid landscape function would be difficult on these materials. Current rehabilitation plans envisage the creation of waste dumps using this material and placing a 15-cm layer of topsoil over the top as a seedbed for germination and plant growth. In the short term the spread of topsoil will aid plant establishment however once plant roots penetrate sodic, high Ni waste dump material it is possible that only salt tolerant and Ni tolerant species will persist. Further research is required to investigate the effect of gypsum and organic matter on the physical properties of the material and the subsequent effect on plant growth. However, it is strongly recommended that systematic characterisation of the sub-soils and overburden materials at BNO be undertaken to determine if more benign substrates can be identified in the mine waste steam and used for revegetation.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Australian Society of Soil Science Inc (WA Branch) and the Environmental Consultants Association (WA Inc.)
Copyright: © Australian Society of Soil Science Inc (WA Branch)
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