Fortescue Metals Group has partnered with the Cooperative Research Centre for Transformation in Mining Economies (CRC TiME) to enhance mine site rehabilitation in the Pilbara region of Western Australia using plant nutrients in iron ore waste.
The 12-month project will be undertaken at Fortescue’s Chichester Hub mine and includes CRC TiME partners University of Western Australia (UWA) and Curtin University.
UWA will undertake experimental glasshouse-based and laboratory testing aided by Curtin’s microbiology expertise.
According to CRC TiME, the Pilbara’s thin layer of topsoil is essential for plant growth but can be disrupted by mining activity.
By using plant nutrients in iron ore waste, the project is expected to increase planta valuable nutrient levels such as nitrogen.
The study will use novel plant-microbe systems in waste rock and tailings, and stockpiled soils to improve mine rehabilitation.
Fortescue principal of mine closure Kirsty Beckett said the project addresses a key issue faced by the mining industry.
“This project is addressing a critical issue for the mining industry as available topsoil is a key limiting factor in the rehabilitation of large tracts of mining affected land,” she said.
“These areas can cover up to half of some of the Fortescue’s mine sites.”
According to CRC TiME chief executive officer Guy Boggs, converting post-mining landscape can provide major benefits.
“Post-mining landscapes require the establishment of self-sustaining ecosystems over heavily altered landscapes constructed from mineral waste.,” Boggs said.
“Effectively and efficiently converting these landscapes into self-sustaining ecosystems delivers both environmental and financial benefits and provides more certainty on ecosystem resilience.”
The Chichester Hub is comprised of the Cloudbreak and Christmas Creek iron ore mines with an annual production capacity of 100 million tonnes per annum.