Application of the shelf-life concept to the renewal of mine-degraded land
Mrinal K. Ghose

Surface mining severely disturbs land in and around mining areas, and it has a great impact on soil fertility. Efforts to grow vegetation on reclaimed mined land in India have not been successful. The reasons for this are not completely understood. This paper examines the causes of biological unproductivity of mined-out areas, and focuses on the impact of mining on soil fertility. This study was conducted in coal-mining areas, and found that there was a continual degradation of soil properties in stockpiled mine soil with time, and, after a certain period, the soil became biologically unproductive. A concept known as the ‘shelf-life period’ was developed from this study. This concept postulates that if the biological reclamation is not done within the shelf-life period, then the soil will become biologically unproductive, and it will be difficult to restore its productivity. This study finds that the cause of biological sterility is the stockpiling of mine soil beyond the shelf-life period. Another outcome of this study is the development of an innovative approach in shortening the study time for the determination of the shelf-life period. This paper concludes that a prior knowledge of the shelf-life period would enable mine planners to draw up an appropriate concurrent and post-mining reclamation strategy. A scheme has been proposed for the preservation of mine soil for the renewal of damaged land, in order to return it to sustainable and beneficial use.

Key words: biologically unproductive, microbial activity, nutrients, opencast, reclamation, topsoil 

Land Contamination & Reclamation, 16 (2), 155-167

DOI 10.2462/09670513.889

© 2008 EPP Publications Ltd

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Article code 889