Growing research and vegetation

Aug 16, 2016

Student study and research

Land reclamation is an essential part of the mining process and one that TransAlta takes seriously. By restoring the land to similar pre-mining conditions, a boreal forest ecosystem will be able to sustain future life.

Erika Valek, a University of Alberta student currently studying her masters in Land Reclamation and Remediation under Simon Landhӓusser, professor and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Industrial Chair, has been at the Highvale Mine conducting research since July 2015. Her thesis research involves studying boreal forest tree growth and vegetation establishment on disturbed mine land using different types of soils, which include a soil amendment of organic compost from the City of Edmonton. Compost provides planted trees with the organic matter they need in nutrient deficient soils while fostering the development of microbial activity, increasing soil structure, infiltration, water holding capacity and decreasing erosion.

When asked about the importance of reclamation for large industries such as TransAlta, Erika said, “There is a huge opportunity to use organic amendments such as compost generated from cities as we focus on reclaiming land back to a self-sustaining, locally common boreal forest ecosystem.”

Project goal

The goal of the project is to foster diversity and sustainability of boreal forest plant species. Approximately 30,000 stems of aspen, white spruce and lodgepole pine trees have been planted in six hectares of leveled and subsoiled land within Pit 08. Reclamation research in the Highvale Mine has been designed together with the University of Alberta Land Reclamation International Graduate School, in collaboration with NSERC, and the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) to explore forest re-establishment.

Reclamation by way of reforestation will create habitat for native plant and animal species, provide natural weed control and mitigate erosion. TransAlta takes pride in its continued reclamation efforts and is thrilled to provide land and funding for research studies such as Erika’s. We look forward to seeing many positive transformations as we continue reclamation at the Highvale Mine.