Soil science blog

Growth from the ground up: amelioration as a new, cost-effective way to condition mine site soils

The process of revegetating highly disturbed soils on a mine site is critical to reviving soil and establishing native vegetation. In fact, without an effective amelioration or soil conditioning strategy, projects can be put at risk. Care needs to be taken with the use of soil conditioners like Gypsum as high application rates on mine sites can create challenges with plant establishment and soil compaction.

The process of revegetation on mine sites can be an expensive and time consuming exercise, with the ultimate goal of returning the land to its former glory, and the design of any project is critical to the project outcome. Ultimately, establishing vegetation in a timely manner is critical to preventing ongoing pollution of waterways and the surrounding environment and ensuring long-term self-sustainability can be achieved.

The amelioration process: an overview

The amelioration soil conditioning process is rooted in soil science, and an understanding of the nutrients required to condition and balance the soil is critical. The first step in this process is to formulate a plan to return the soil to optimum health. You can then determine the amelioration products and volumes needed to correctly condition the soil and apply them using a hydromulching truck, a new innovation developed by EnviroStraw.

In this way, our products are more efficient and cost-effective to apply than a conventional soil amelioration program, which may require a combination of spreaders, excavators, tip trucks and loaders. Our process also typically requires only 80% of the volume of other soil conditioners.

Digging deeper: soil biology

The key to effective soil health and revegetation lies not in large volumes of soil conditioners, but in working with soil biology. The microbes in soil have the ability to feed plants, and this plant-microbe symbiosis allows both microbes and plants to thrive while also balancing pH, reducing sodicity and building soil carbon levels in the soil in a more natural way.

Mineral imbalances are common on mine sites where the soil has often suffered extensive damage due to ongoing mining activities, causing the soil to “lock up” nutrients. Adopting a perspective that sees the soil as a living being allows us to reinoculate the soil with microbes that free up these nutrients.

workers standing in field

Common challenges faced with soil amelioration on mine sites

Working with machinery
A conventional amelioration program typically involves using several pieces of machinery, including a loader, a tractor, a spreader or excavator and tippers to transfer material from one location to another. It can be difficult to achieve an even spread of the soil conditioning agents and effectively combine them with the soil through this process, especially on steep slopes. All of this can significantly increase the cost of the project and increase carbon emissions on site.

Using soil conditioners correctly
The conventional method of conditioning soil involves flushing conditioners like Gypsum through the soil profile using high volumes of water. If this step is missed, the high rates of soil conditioners applied can cause an adverse chemical reaction in the soil, resulting in nutrient lockout and compacted soils.

Importing soil conditioner
Mine site amelioration typically requires large volumes of soil conditioners like Gypsum or Compost, for example. These must be carted to site by truck, which increases costs and carbon emissions. Storage of these high volumes can also be a challenge as they need to be kept covered and dry to minimise dust and prevent chemicals from leaching into the surrounding environment.

Why customers choose EnviroStraw’s BioGrowth™ program

BioGrowth™ is a world-first – a microbial, carbon-regenerative revegetation program designed for sites with depleted soil which can be used wherever a vegetated solution is required for soil remediation and revegetation.

An innovative outcome-driven alternative to conventional revegetation practices, BioGrowth™ works to mitigate risks commonly associated with revegetation projects by assessing and addressing influential ecological factors and constraints.

Building on conventional rehabilitation practices to revegetate and stabilise highly disturbed soil in a cost-effective manner, the BioGrowth™ program supports naturally occurring biological activity to prevent erosion, increase soil fertility and enhance soil health.

The scientifically designed and rigorously tested products used as inputs in our Australian-made BioGrowth™ Regenerative Revegetation program include:

  • hydromulch medias
  • specific multi-strain bacteria and fungi
  • controlled release mineral fertiliser (CFF) and trace elements; and
  • additional biologically and environmentally friendly inputs.

These combined inputs rapidly establish the beneficial soil bacteria and fungi that further bind the soil with glomalin (soil carbon cement) and increase soil aggregation and the soil’s ability to store water.

At its core, the BioGrowth™ program is focused on utilising easy-to-adopt, scientifically validated, economical and environmentally sustainable practices and inputs to achieve optimal outcomes. By radically improving soil health, quality and fertility, BioGrowth™ reduces the costs associated with amelioration, watering and on-going maintenance, and lowers the risk of expensive reworks.

Which EnviroStraw products are recommended and why?

EnviroStraw has a range of products designed to assist with the amelioration process on mine sites. These include Calcium Plus, a product used for soils with low calcium content and structural issues caused by sodicity, and Carbon Plus, a product used to raise soil carbon levels and encourage moisture and nutrient retention.

The advanced science involved in the development of our products goes against many long-held understandings about soil biology and soil fertility, even amongst ecologists and agronomists. That’s why we’re so focussed on sharing education around what we are doing – conditioning the soil in a natural, holistic way to build soil biology – through our website and our blog.

Are you working on a mine site with depleted soil that needs revegetation? If so, speak to one of our friendly soil scientists today to see how BioGrowth™ and our range of amelioration products can help you bring it back to life, or click here to check out our soil amelioration product range.

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