Reclamation plans should be flexible to suit various end uses and market environments.
While planting doesn’t eliminate all signs of mining, it can create interesting green space.
Increasingly, mines are engaging in concurrent roles of production and reclamation.
Reclamation 2011: Streamlined and Sustainable
Back to Basics
A decade ago, mine reclamation plans were often shiny and sparkly: waterfront homes, deluxe shopping centers, and championship golf courses. In fact, the post-mining value of the land was sometimes higher than that of the mineral reserves, enticing some operators into the business of real estate development rather than aggregate production.
Today, however, large-scale commercial and residential projects are few and far between. Operators, like many Americans, are scaling back and returning to simpler post-mining land uses. Even California’s high-priced real estate market isn’t generating the same excitement for grandiose reclamation projects.
“We want to make our sites close to what they potentially used to look like,” says Bill Williams, general manager of Santa Rosa, Calif.-based BoDean Co., Inc. “Obviously, you’re going to have benches and things that didn’t exist before, but at some point, when it is fully reclaimed and you have mature trees on it, the idea is that it’s going to blend in with the surrounding environment.”
While open-space reclamation projects are increasingly common, other low-cost alternatives can also be achieved, particularly through cooperative partnerships with communities or non-profit groups.
“My first recommendation is to talk to the city or township to determine what their needs might include,” advises Wendy Schlett, senior project manager with GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc., in Grand Rapids, Mich. “Mines can be re-purposed to meet community needs. One option is a water reservoir or similar project that is beneficial to the community. Or, the community may need a park and you start down the path of looking at what you want a park to look like.”
If the community doesn’t have an obvious need for the land, another option — one that may come with some unexpected benefits — is to partner with a non-profit to create a nature preserve. “We’re seeing that the non-profits are trying to find conservation projects or means to help save endangered species,” Schlett says. “They can help identify different paths to follow when it comes to reclamation. They can also help with volunteers and investors.”
Because mined properties often contain little plant life, they offer a blank slate that allows reclamation efforts to start from scratch, in terms of plantings and landscaping, to create favorable conditions for nurturing a particular type of animal.
“Ultimately, they’re going to be donating the land to the non-profit, so they don’t have to maintain it. Reclamation capable of maintaining an endangered species can garner higher tax credits,” Schlett says. “It generates a win for the operator. They might not have to pay for the entire cost of the reclamation, and then they get a higher value when they donate the land because it is worth more.”
Bill Williams is the general manager of Santa Rosa, Calif.-based BoDean Co., Inc. Prior to joining the company approximately 10 years ago, he worked in the financial industry. He has a bachelor’s degree in education, with an emphasis in history, from Concordia University, in Seward, Neb.
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