On Monday 11 April, ANGAIR members embarked on a Nature Ramble with a difference. At the ANGAIR Natural History Centre, 30 members boarded a bus to the Alcoa Power Station in Camp Rd for an introductory presentation by the Alcoa Mine Environmental Scientist about the ongoing project to rehabilitate areas where heathland has been lost in the process of open cut mining of brown coal for electricity production.
The large-scale rehabilitation methods that have been employed were described. These included landscaping (reshaping) of the mined areas, preservation and salvaging of topsoil, the collection and use of seed from nearby areas ,the transplantation of grasstrees using specialised equipment and weed control measures. Species including Eucalyptus baxteri and E obliqua (Brown Stringybark and Messmate) have been planted manually. The success of the project is being assessed scientifically through monitoring of quadrats that have been randomly selected throughout the rehabilitation area. The surveys are of flora and not of fauna at this stage. The project initially aims to rehabilitate the mined areas to the EVC Benchmark for Heathy Woodland (EVC 48). This ensures that all lifeforms and characteristic species of the heathland are returned.
After morning tea, we were equipped with hard hats and goggles (a safety requirement for all entering a mine site). Alcoa staff then led us on a walk through four rehabilitation areas dating form 2002 to 2007.
Although the re-establishment of the original vegetation communities with their complex ecosystems is considered to be unattainable, most members of the group were impressed with the results of the rehabilitation work and the floral diversity that has been achieved to date.
Thanks go to Helen Tutt for liaising with Alcoa management to arrange the tour.