Establishment of a Vegetation Cover on Tundra Kimberlite Mine Tailings: 1. A Greenhouse Study

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Address correspondence to M. A. Naeth, email anne.naeth@ualberta.ca

Abstract

High erosion potential of dewatered kimberlite mine tailings after diamond extraction has prompted research at the Ekati Diamond Mine in the Canadian subarctic heath tundra ecosystem. Coarse texture, no organic component, lack of available macronutrients, and a serpentine chemistry are the principal limitations of these kimberlite tailings to plant colonization. Structure-improving (peat moss, lake sediment, sewage sludge, Agri-Boost, and composted papermill sludge) and nutrient-providing (fertilizer, calcium carbonate, gypsum, and rock phosphate) amendments were tested in the greenhouse to ameliorate these limitations, thereby facilitating the field establishment of a permanent vegetation cover, which would stabilize the surface materials and promote natural colonization by the surrounding tundra vegetation. Seven native grass species (Arctagrostis latifolia, Calamagrostis canadensis, Poa glauca, Poa alpina, Deschampsia beringensis, Deschampsia caespitosa, and Festuca rubra) were used to measure amendment success. With the addition of structure-improving and nutrient-providing amendments, plant growth on kimberlite tailings was significantly enhanced. Tailings properties, including cation exchange capacity, percentage of organic carbon, and macronutrient availability, were also improved by amendment addition.

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