Century-old Naturally Reclaimed Mining Site Preserves Regional Biodiversity

by Zoe Dilles

Native plants are flourishing unexpected at old abandoned gold mines in Southern New Zealand in spite of the fact that no landscape remediation was done. While natural reclamation through mine abandonment has historically been the default management strategy for mining sites around the world, the strict environmental policy of today typically mandates extensive site engineering after operations cease. Turning mine sites into usable land for agriculture, forestry, or recreation often entails time-consuming and costly rehabilitation measures such as topsoil replacement and replanting. Water management directs these approaches in arid climates because mine water evaporation as a product of unique geologic settings produces often undesirably saline soils. However, the salty soil of historic gold mine sites in the South Otago region provide rare naturally occurring saline habitats that are elsewhere jeopardized by expanded farming and new agricultural processes. Continue reading