Evaluation of native colonizing species for revegetation of tailings deposits in central Chile

By Patricio Olivares (Ausenco), Carolina Vargas (Ausenco), Oscar Fernández (Ausenco), Andrés López (Ausenco) & Juan Pedro Otárola (Minera Florida Ltda)

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Minera Florida Limitada (MFL) operates an underground mine of the same name for the exploitation of gold, silver and zinc in the town of Alhué, 73 kilometers from the city of Santiago, Metropolitan Region of Chile. As part of the production process, massive mining waste deposits are generated, such as tailings deposits. Based on a risk assessment, MFL committed in its Closure Plan to revegetate its tailings deposit out of operation, to reduce wind erosion. In this context, field studies were carried out to determine the most suitable plant species for use in revegetation tasks, subjected to nutrient-poor substrates, with the presence of heavy metals and a scenario of increasing water scarcity. A first phase of scalable trials was carried out under controlled in situ conditions, where the survival and height growth of nine native tree and shrub colonising species was measured. The species were subjected to differentiated irrigation and substrate treatments and were monitored for one year. Based on the results obtained, pilot cells were designed for the species with the highest probability of long-term survival and considering the lowest irrigation requirements. This publication summarises the methodology and results obtained in this initial phase and proposes projections of some native species that may have higher probabilities or revegetation success in the context of mine closures in central Chile.

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