Open-cast mining reclamation strategies are focused on the identification of the environmental factors at different scales that facilitate the vegetation establishment and development. Here, we characterised the environmental factors at macro-scale and micro-scale that influenced the herbaceous richness and biomass accumulation patterns trough a 32-year chronosequence. Herbaceous richness and biomass were influenced at macro-scale by successional and soil development gradients whereas at micro-scale by shrub cover and coarseness gradients. Indeed, certain environmental factors at macro-scale and micro-scale contributed simultaneously to determine these gradients. Explicitly, the successional gradient was related to carbon and nitrogen ratio, grazing intensity and Shannon diversity. Across this successional gradient, total herb biomass and Fabaceae biomass were reduced as well as main taxonomical groups richness. Soil development gradient was related to total nitrogen, pH and erosion severity. This gradient only influenced species richness and produced a richness reduction when pH and erosion severity increased. At micro-scale, the shrub cover gradient was related to organic matter thickness, producing a Poaceae biomass and bryophytes cover increase when shrub cover and organic matter increased. The coarseness gradient was related to the cover of rocks and bare soil, producing a reduction of herb biomass and richness when rocks and bare soil increased. These results emphasise the need to incorporate in the management plans the influence of soil development, successional, shrub cover and coarseness gradients over herbaceous richness and biomass to improve mine reclamation strategies. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.