Growth potential of various plant species for vegetative rehabilitation of different mine tailings
Pretorius, Jacobus Marthinus
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Vegetation establishment is one of the major rehabilitation methods that are used to stabilize, cover, to minimize, mitigate or remove the contaminants from tailings storage facilities (TSF’s). Phytostabilization is a useful mechanism by which plants limit the contamination of natural systems with toxic elements. For successful occurrence of phytostabilization on mine tailings, it is vital to establish plant species that can survive the hostile conditions of the substrate. Major problems encountered with vegetation covers is the lack of natural soil properties e.g. soil structure, organic carbon and also hostile chemical conditions. Only a few species are tolerant to the different negative properties of the tailings. The main aim of this project is to identify plant species that can be used for vegetative rehabilitation of nine different types of tailings material including gypsum, gold, platinum, kimberlite, coal, fluorspar and andalusite tailings. The ability of 28 different plant species to survive in the tailings was assessed by statistically calculating the growth potential of the species and summarizing the data in graphs and an index table that calculates a specific merit value for each of the tailings-species combinations. The various plant stress factors that the species exhibited were also documented. Finally, the results were correlated with a soil physical and -chemical baseline study of the tailings to provide insight into successes and failures of certain species. The final results identified various successful tailings-species combinations, as well as failures. The index table proved to be a useful tool to identify suitable species for establishment on various tailings. The baseline study of the different tailings could be used to explain why certain species could be established successfully, as well as the reason why some species did not survive.