University of Canberra
Research Projects
Planning, Implementation and Monitoring for Land Rehabilitation: A case study on restoring and measuring soil functionality at Barrick (Cowal) Gold Mine
State/Territory: NSW

Mining causes irreversible damage to landscapes. This includes changes to landforms, hydrology, soil, flora and fauna. Due to the significance of change, rehabilitation to the pre-existing ecosystem is not possible. Instead, rehabilitation aims to engineer a self-sustaining and resilient ecosystem. Ecosystems are inherently complex and difficult to recreate. By breaking ecosystem complexity into 4-key features of Landscape, Function, Structure and Composition, a framework for design and implementation of rehabilitation can be utilised. The early stages of rehabilitation include stabilising the landscape. After this, functions such as water and nutrient cycling are to be restored to ensure successful revegetation.

Nutrient cycling is altered in mine soils as a result of stockpiling and respreading. To kick-start nutrient cycling, organic amendments, such as mulches, can be used. My research aims to understand some of the interactions between fresh and composted mulch on a saline sodic stockpiled mine soil. Two experiments are being undertaken at the ANU. One is looking at changes in the dynamics of total and plant available carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous and sulphur. The other looks at changes in the microbial community and efficiency of different mulch types for promoting nutrient cycling. Outcomes of the research are expected to demonstrate more effective and efficient uses of mulch amendments for rehabilitation of nutrient cycling.

This research has implications for any land restoration/rehab project, including urban, farming areas, bushfire affected catchments and other remediation zones.

Geographic location:
Cowal Gold Mine, West Wyalong
Research theme:
Climate Change and Sustainability
The Fenner School, ANU
Funding agency:
Barrick (Cowal) Gold
Main researchers:
Jessica Drake, Richard Greene, John Field and Ben Macdonald
30 May 2004 - 30 May 2015