TransAlta’s Highvale mine in central Alberta is currently expanding to provide fuel for Keephills 3, which is under construction. The company spends $7 to $8 million each year at Highvale to ensure reclamation keeps pace with mining.
TransAlta’s Whitewood mine, in the same area, closed in early 2010, in concert with the retirement of the Wabamun plant. A plan for reclamation of Whitewood is in place and on track. Reclamation costs in 2010 and 2011 will be about $16 million in total. The mine will be reclaimed to agricultural land.
Centralia, in Washington State, has one of the largest open pit mines in the U.S. Mining operations ceased in November, 2006. Since then, reclamation has been ahead of schedule. In addition, we continue to look for innovation in how we reclaim. In 2009, we planted 28,000 saplings. In 2010, an additional 42,000 saplings will be planted.
As part of mining operations ceasing in 2006, TransAlta offered to transfer 143 acres to the neighbouring community for use as an industrial park, which will attract more business to the area. As additional acres are reclaimed, more land will be transferred.
In 2010, TransAlta will begin a two-year study on how the compaction of reclaimed soils impacts tree growth. The study, in partnership with the University of Washington forestry department and Office of Surface Mining, will involve planting trees in different circumstances on 12 hectares of land. Results should impact future reclamation practices across industry.
TransAlta’s first coal-fired plant, Wabamun, was retired on March 31, 2010. Built in 1956, Wabamun was a cornerstone asset for TransAlta and the growth of Alberta. Wabamun is the first coal plant to be decommissioned in Alberta; the process took eight years of gradual phased shut down and remediation of the site continues. In 2009, plant staff focused on reclamation of the site’s abandoned ash lagoons, and removal of asbestos from the three non-operational units. The ash was stockpiled and will be sold to cement companies. The asbestos was properly disposed. All other materials are recycled and reused wherever possible. TransAlta has committed to leave the land in a condition suitable for a combination of industrial, wildlife and residential use.