Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

Two days ago I was driving around looking at the Souris River levels and the various bits of flooding going on in the Estevan area.

Just south of the city, along Hwy #47, there's a vast desert wasteland created by systematic strip-mining for coal

A typical prairie whirlwind was twisting its way across and picking up particles of clay.

This bit of wasteland is part of the first attempts at land reclamation after taking out all possible, profitable coal.  The reclaiming company either had zero know-how (likely) or little inclination other than to collect some good money for a job poorly done (probably).

The only things that grow out there are the most tenacious weeds that can grow on pure clay.  When the mining pits were filled in, the topsoil was pushed in first.  


  1. In the oil sands business companies have to store every ounce of precious topsoil (actually it's forest carpet and more like a peat-moss). We then must preserve it very carefully for 5-10 years, and finally enrich it before planting native plants and grasses, as well as scrubs and trees. Some of the first reclaimed areas look amazing and support a lot of wildlife.

  2. How sad. We did surprisingly have some pocket iron (goethite) mining in southern Minnesota some decades ago. It was eventually reclaimed and now is a state wildlife management area with prairie grasses and little ponds scattered throughout. Baron I most often take our long hike there as leashes aren't required and he can romp to his hearts content. :)

  3. To be fair, the reclamation of striped land has progressed in the past 5-6 years. Now, the topsoil is set aside. The pits are filled in leaving a rolling hills topography. The land is then tilled and seeded with appropriate grasses and hay crops. Water collects in the new small lakes. Some of the land is leased for cattle grazing. Unfortunately, none of the older mined land will be reclaimed unless there is a deeper coal vein that wasn't removed and further mining might happen at some point. Some places around here are pretty weird with old spill piles overgrown with poplars, willows with small deep lakes - all not open to the public.