Mine Revegetation in the North: Meeting Yukon community expectations of reclamation success

Using native plants for revegetating mine sites

Mine revegetation in northern regions presents many challenges including remote access and adverse climatic conditions. This project focuses on the proposed Coffee Gold Mine, in central Yukon and explores two themes: 

Study 1 - How do potentially affected First Nations and communities envision revegetation success at the proposed Coffee Gold Mine? 

Study 2 – Does the creation of shelter improve the establishment and growth of boreal plants important to communities? 

The Northern Mine Remediation program is working with it's Yukon Mine Consortium partners to address research issues relevant to the industry. Mine revegetation is one of these topics and will be explored in this four-year PhD project.

Project description

The challenge of developing revegetation goals is widely acknowledged and much research focuses on ecological indicators that may indicate success. The selection of goals, however, requires value-based decisions that are supported, not dictated, by technical information. Despite this social context, decision-making remains an “expert” driven process that disempowers local knowledge and voices. We are hoping to engage community and First Nation partners to identify a common vision of success to guide Study 2 and further revegetation planning. 

Study 2 is a field experiment at Coffee Creek that uses the revegetation goals expressed by communities in Study 1 as the basis for selecting target species. A multiple evidence base approach will be used to include local, traditional and scientific knowledge into species selection. Six shelter treatments are designed to examine both physical and biological effects of shelter on target species establishment and early growth: snow fencing and rocks as inert physical shelter and alder, soapberry and mountain avens as living biological shelters. A second field experiment will test whether physical shelter is needed to successfully establish shrub shelters above treeline. 

The project was established in the spring of 2020 and will continue for the next four years. The knowledge produced will support quartz mining reclamation and closure planning in Yukon and provide insights for businesses and entrepreneurs interested in the revegetation industry. 

Project team and funders

Krystal Isbister, PhD Student, University of Alberta/YukonU Research Centre 
Dr. Guillaume Nielsen, NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Northern Mine Remediation, YukonU Research Centre 
Dr. Simon Landhäusser, Co-Supervisor, University of Alberta 
Dr. Liza Piper, Co-Supervisor, University of Alberta 

Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Mitacs, Yukon University's Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the Yukon Mining Research Consortium: Newmont Corporation, BMC Minerals Ltd., Victoria Gold Corp., Casino Mining Corp., Selwyn Chihong Mining Ltd., Alexco Resource Corp. and Minto Explorations