Taking Globe Progress back to nature

Taking Globe Progress back to nature
The Reefton Mine Rehabilitation Project restored area now encompasses 30.6 hectares of land.

Standing at Globe Progress mine, nothing looks out of the ordinary. But it is the fact that you often can’t tell what has been there that makes it stand out, says OceanaGold planning and approval superintendent Duncan Ross.
“This is the first modern large-scale gold mine in the South Island to move into closure. “There are some that will say that gold mines can’t be rehabilitated.
But this is an example of how it can be done. “Productive gold mines can move into closure and you can have a gold mine that contributes to subsequent sustainable land use,” he says. More than 610,000 ounces of gold was mined from the Globe Progress mine between 2007 and 2016.
While restoration work has taken place alongside the mine throughout its working life, since the mine moved into closure in 2016 the Reefton Mine Rehabilitation Project, as it is called, has gone into full swing and the restored area now encompasses 30.6 hectares of land.
Duncan admits that the project is ambitious. Situated in the sub-alpine Victoria Forest Park conservation area, the project aims to re-establish ecosystems with indigenous species.
It will mostly consist of forested areas populated by beech species and complemented by native conifers, including rimu and miro trees.
The project delivery has been a multidisciplinary effort, with site-based Duncan and his team working closely with the New Zealand Department of Conservation, the West Coast Regional Council and the Buller District Council.
Duncan says that the objective of the project is to leave the site in a safe and sustainable condition. “This means, among other things, that the trees we have planted are capable of producing seedlings, that the water leaving site meets all of the water quality standards, and that any potentially hazardous areas are appropriately demarcated.
“We will also be actively working with the Department of Conservation on legacy projects such as appropriate tracks and access.”
A lot of work has taken place already. Excess rock generated by mining has been stacked on site and is being contoured to resemble natural landforms before being planted with native species.
Duncan says that the types of plants selected as initial ground cover have been chosen for their ability to encourage the arrival of other native plant and animal species typical of a mature West Coast forest.
Taking Globe Progress back to nature
“Over time, the rock stacks will blend into the landscape. Their shape and cover will mirror the surrounding topography, vegetation, and animal life,” he says. The pit lake at Globe Progress is currently half full and it is estimated it will take a further two years to fill completely.
The Souvenir pit, sited above the Fossickers tailings storage facility, has now been backfilled and will then be capped.
The site has 100,000 trees on order for 2018 and these will be used to restore the Souvenir pit area.
Last spring 85,000 eco-sourced native trees of various species were planted. Duncan says currently several planting trials are running on site, several of which were established before the mine started producing gold. Each trial involves different growing media and soil depth.
“Everything has worked very well in the past few years and I have no doubt that the methods we use will be effective in the larger areas required to restore the whole mine site,” he says.
“The trial work and smaller scale planting that we completed earlier on in the mine life have contributed greatly to our success.”
In 2014 alone, the project team completed over 12.25 hectares of restoration which includes planting approximately 73,000 seedlings over 11.5 hectares.
In 2015, a further 116,000 seedlings were ready for planting, enough to complete an additional 17 hectares of restoration. Early trials and detailed planning have enabled the gradual increase in the volume of seeds planted.
This has allowed natural succession processes to take place and helped to re-establish the original closed canopy forest for the future, says Duncan.
He says that the plan for final closure is constantly being refined and is a work in progress as the project continues.
OceanaGold will work continue to work with the Department of Conservation and the local community to determine the site layout post closure.
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