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Keywords:

  • amendments;
  • diamond mine;
  • native species;
  • reclamation;
  • revegetation;
  • soil nutrients;
  • soil structure

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. Greenhouse and field studies aimed at establishing a permanent vegetation cover on these dewatered tailings began in spring 2000. Coarse texture, no organic component, lack of available macronutrients, and a serpentine chemistry are the principal limitations of kimberlite tailings to plant colonization. Structure-improving (peat moss, lake sediment, and sewage sludge) and nutrient-providing (fertilizer, rock phosphate, calcium carbonate, and gypsum) amendments were tested to ameliorate these conditions, facilitating the establishment of a permanent vegetation cover, which stabilizes surface materials and promotes 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 these kimberlite tailings under field conditions was significantly improved over unamended tailings material. Tailings properties, including cation exchange capacity, organic carbon, and macronutrient availability, were also improved with amendment addition.