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Geomorphic reclamation for reestablishment of landform stability at a watershed scale in mined sites: The Alto Tajo Natural Park, Spain

AuthorsZapico, Ignacio ; Martín Duque, J. F. ; Bugosh, N.; Laronne, J. B.; Ortega, Ana Isabel; Molina-Jurado, Antonio ; Martín Moreno, Cristina ; Nicolau, J. M.; Sánchez Castillo, L.
KeywordsGeomorphic reclamation
Mining reclamation
Landform stability
Sediment yield
Alto Tajo Natural Park
Issue DateFeb-2018
CitationEcological Engineering 111: 100-116 (2018)
AbstractThis research describes a geomorphic-based process of mining reclamation carried out at the El Machorro mine (at the edge of the Alto Tajo Natural Park, East Central Spain) and its monitoring for five years (2012–2017). The GeoFluv™ method implemented by the Natural Regrade software has been used to design small watersheds as a mining reclamation topographical solution. The procedure included: (i) finding a suitable reference area with stable landforms and acquiring inputs from them; (ii) designing two first-order stream watersheds; (iii) building the planned landscape; and (iv) monitoring the hydrological and erosive – sedimentary response of the reclaimed watersheds. This process is in itself a contribution to global advancement of reclamation best practices, because there are very few geomorphic-based mining reclamation examples, and even fewer that include their multi-annual monitoring. Sediment yields were obtained comparing Digital Elevation Models (DEM) acquired by Total Station (TS), Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS), differential Global Positioning System (GPS) and topographic reconstructions (interpretations). An H-flume with turbidity and water pressure sensors allowed quantifying runoff and suspended sediment. Sediment yield progressively decreased with time attaining a current low value (4.02 Mg ha−1 yr−1). Water discharge and suspended sediment concentration have also decreased with time. Initially, high sediment yield values were obtained. They are interpreted as being triggered by grading errors that deviated from the design, so that runoff adjusted construction irregularities during that period by erosion and sedimentation. After those adjustments, the reclamation surface became more reflective of the design and the resulting surface remained very ‘stable’. The deduction is that the geomorphic-based reclamation has re-established an approximate steady-state or dynamic equilibrium, where hydrological and erosive – sedimentary functionality operate now at rates comparable to the surrounding natural land. Although further research is required to confirm long-term stability, geomorphic reclamation appears as an efficient mining reclamation alternative solution to the traditional approach of gradient terraces and downdrains, which require frequent and costly maintenance, in the highly erodible setting of the Alto Tajo Natural Park surroundings, as well as in most open pit mines.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoleng.2017.11.011
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