Insights and Lessons Learned From the Long-term Rehabilitation of an Iron ore Mine

Document Type : Original Research Paper


Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University, Potchefstroom, 2520, South Africa


A long-term study was conducted between 1985 and 2003 on rehabilitation trials at Sishen Iron
Ore Mine, South Africa, to identify grass species that would survive in the artificial growth medium applied
to the sites, and to determine the most suitable medium for sustainable vegetation growth. Vegetation
establishment was tested at slopes of 18° and 34° and with five different cover materials. After 17 years of
rehabilitation, investigations showed that weathered limestone sloped at 18° produced the highest percentage of plant cover and least erosion. Sixteen grass species were introduced and identified in the survey, with Eragrostis sp. and Cenchrus ciliaris as the dominant species. In 2004, new trials were initiated at the same mine to evaluate the effectiveness of different seeding methods and supplementation of the growth medium with organic material. After 4 years, hydro seeding was found to be the best method to distribute seeds evenly and to ensure uniform vegetation growth. Different engineering designs, such as changing the contour length and slope, had little influence on the measured parameters. A total of 28 grass species were identified in the sampling plots, with Enneapogon cenchroides and Cenchrus ciliaris as the dominant ones. Dehydrogenase activity was used as a proxy for microbial activity, and a positive association was observed between microbial activity and percentage organic carbon, emphasising the importance of soil organic matter in the soil development process.