One of the most important stages in the process of mining land is reclamation. Reclamation returns the land that was mined back to the way it was before the mine started working the area. It may sound like a massive task, and in some mining locations it is, but reclamation is a requirement and the responsibility of the mining company. In other words, it is an important goal for mining companies to plan how they intend to return the land to its original state after they have finished mining it.

How Reclamation Is Planned

About 97% of the Soil Removed is Set Aside for Later Use.
Image Source: Flickr

The process of reclamation actually begins long before the mine closes and vacates an area. While a mine is in operation it has reclamation factored into the ongoing operation. The soil that is removed in the beginning of the mining process is the first step towards reclamation. That’s because about 97-percent of that soil is set aside for use later.

Buildings, structures, equipment and anything else associated with the mining operation are all built in such a manner that once the mine closes, they can be easily removed. This includes offices, mills, storage sheds, conveyor belts and anything else that did not exist on site before the mine began operations.

After The Mine Closes

When a mining company closes an operation, they remove all traces of their activity. Once the mine site is bare of buildings, structures and equipment, sand is trucked in from elsewhere on the property and used to cover where buildings stood and recontoured to closely resemble the surrounding landscape. Topsoil is then returned and planting begins. Depending on the exact location of the mine, trees, shrubbery and grasses that are native to the region and climate are planted.

Following Reclamation

After the Mine Closes the Surrounding Habitat is Monitored to Ensure that it Returns to its Original State.
Image Source: BLM

After the land has been returned to a natural state, the reclamation process goes into a different phase. This is when the area is monitored. The monitoring process is necessary in order to confirm that the area develops into a forest and wildlife habitat. The site will be monitored for no less than two growing seasons. Growth patterns, erosion and the return of wildlife will all be observed.

Other Uses Following Reclamation

Former mining sites don’t always get returned to natural states. Some have become mining museums, interpretive centres and repurposed into other uses. Mining sites that have had all buildings and structures removed are often converted into wildlife preserves, parks or other outdoor attractions revolving around nature and habitat preservation. In a way, even after a mine has left a region it can still contribute to the local economy through tourism. This in itself makes reclamation a positive lasting legacy resulting from mining.