Lazy Grazing

When a mine starts up, the approvals process demands that a plan is developed to rehabilitate the mine progressively and at closure. At approvals stage, there is little appetite to slow down the already lengthy and cumbersome process with complicated rehabilitation planning. This tends to see mine developers prefer to adopt a safe solution for post mining land use that conforms with the industry norms, rather than take risks to achieve a better outcome. That sees most companies nominate grazing as a post mining land use, since its easy to grow grass and cows eat it. Not much risk in that.

The problem is that in many areas, extreme heat in summer and dry conditions at other times render the land a wasteland of dead grass and dust for most of the year. You could lightly graze it, but many mines don’t go there for fear of causing erosion.  While technically it could be grazed, it’s tough to find a farmer than wants to take on the land.

The irony is that while grazing is a very low value post mining land use, it is perhaps the most expensive post mining land use to establish. Cattle don’t go well on steep grades and the sparse coverage of the grass offers little erosion resistance, forcing the use of shallow slope angles, ballooning out the amount of material that is moved to achieve the landform.

There are plenty of other land uses, such as solar power, cropping and bioenergy production which can have a lower reshaping cost than grazing and leave a positive contribution to the land and local communities.