Rehabilitating open-cut coal mine spoil for a pasture system in south east Queensland, Australia: abiotic soil properties compared with unmined land through time

Bennett, J. McL. and Melland, A. R. and Eberhard, J. and Paton, C. and Clewett, J. F. and Newsome, T. and Baillie, C. (2021) Rehabilitating open-cut coal mine spoil for a pasture system in south east Queensland, Australia: abiotic soil properties compared with unmined land through time. Geoderma Regional, 25:e00364. ISSN 2352-0094


Rehabilitation of mined land intends to support food and biomass production, with open cut mines required to return the land to a safe, stable and productive state in Queensland, Australia. The aim of this investigation was to assess the potential for soil that was previously farmed, then mined and rehabilitated to support pasture for commercial cattle production. The study was focussed on abiotic properties of the rehabilitated soils, in comparison to properties of a range of unmined soil profiles supporting pastures within the immediate vicinity. Three hypotheses were tested: 1) the abiotic properties of rehabilitated soils would fall within the range of those from nearby unmined soils; 2) that rehabilitated soils would support viable pasture production; and 3) that the mine-spoil would restrict root function. The mine was situated near Acland, Queensland, with rehabilitated land sown to pasture 1, 3 and 6 years prior to the initiation of the study in 2013. The investigation followed these rehabilitated sites, in comparison to a Control site, and 18 proximal unmined sites, through a five year period. All sites were used to support cattle grazing, with soil nutrients, structural condition and pasture growth (8 sites) monitored. Evidence from pasture production and root exploration obtained through soil pit investigations demonstrated that the mine spoil was capable of supporting root growth beyond the replaced soil layer. There were few differences between the Control and rehabilitated sites with regard to benefits or constraints to pasture production, with exception that two rehabilitated sites had similar or higher plant-available phosphorus and nitrogen. It was concluded that: 1) abiotic properties of rehabilitated soils fell within the range of unmined soils; 2) viable pasture production was achieved from the rehabilitated sites; and 3) both the replaced soil layer and the mine spoil supported root exploration and pasture production.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to Published version in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences - Centre for Agricultural Engineering (1 Aug 2018 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Life Sciences and the Environment - Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Systems (1 Aug 2018 -)
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2021 06:15
Last Modified: 02 Nov 2021 02:48
Uncontrolled Keywords: rehabilitation chronosequence, spolic anthroposol, spoil management, man-made soil
Fields of Research (2008): 05 Environmental Sciences > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050207 Environmental Rehabilitation (excl. Bioremediation)
05 Environmental Sciences > 0503 Soil Sciences > 050302 Land Capability and Soil Degradation
07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070101 Agricultural Land Management
Fields of Research (2020): 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410405 Environmental rehabilitation and restoration
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4106 Soil sciences > 410601 Land capability and soil productivity
30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3002 Agriculture, land and farm management > 300202 Agricultural land management
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9612 Rehabilitation of Degraded Environments > 961205 Rehabilitation of Degraded Mining Environments
D Environment > 96 Environment > 9614 Soils > 961402 Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland Soils
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1806 Terrestrial systems and management > 180604 Rehabilitation or conservation of terrestrial environments
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1806 Terrestrial systems and management > 180605 Soils
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