The Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP) has published an article outlining the benefits of using microorganisms to rehabilitate former mining land.
The article, ‘Microbial Management Systems’ by Howard G Wildman, details a study of microorganism use at three minesites that were undergoing rehabilitation.
The studies were conducted at two sites at Centennial Coal’s Charbon Colliery, a single site at Xstrata Coal’s Bulga Coal Mine and another site at Xstrata Coal’s Ravensworth Narama Mine.
According to Wildman, re-establishing a self-sustaining vegetative cover is one of the major challenges to rehabilitating land disturbed by mining.
“Restoration of acceptable vegetative cover on reclaimed mine lands can be difficult because post-mining soils often have a less developed soil structure than the original in-situ soil,” he said.
“They can also have reduced organic matter and plant-available nutrient contents.”
Wildman said microorganisms were becoming increasingly important for successful reclamation.
“They play vital role in nutrient cycling, plant establishment and growth, geochemical transformations and soil formation,” he said.
“A primary function of many soil microorganisms during soil restoration is to promote organic matter turnover and nutrient cycling through diverse metabolic functioning.”
“There have been positive revegetation results, reduced soil erosion and accelerated pedogenesis on abandoned logging trails in the US through the addition of myco-remediated organic waste.”
The study involved standardised sample treatments and isolation media to distinguish the numbers of bacteria, actinomycetes and fungi in the soils.
Carbon-utilisation profiles were also used to provide a “fingerprint” of the soil bacterial and fungal communities in the same soils, Wildman said.
The final report can be accessed at the ACARP website.