Mining can be a destructive industry, so what can be done for wildlife in the mining industry? It's called mine rehabilitation and its goal is to give back a home to wild animals.
I spend my young life dreaming about various jobs I could get being involved with and helpful to wildlife.
Yet for the hours (days/weeks/months) dreaming about all I would achieve for the love of wildlife, never did I imagine I would... work for a mining company.
Yes, I said it. I love wildlife and I work for a mining company. It was not such an easy choice but all in all I don’t regret it. You see, I’ve come to the realisation that some problems - maybe? – need a frontal attack approach but that many if not most problems need a cooperative approach.
(Note: I must be very confident in the human nature to put so much trust in cooperation - despite that I always thought I love all other animals so much more than humans...)
Anyway, I did my PhD research at a
university, as is usually the case, but the logistics was supported by a mining
company. Then when I finished my studies, I wrote my conclusions and I say,
basically, “Guys, there is a lot more to our problem than the 500 pages I just
And that is how the mining company offered me a job: “Oh really? There, you can do it”.
My involvement with a mining company started with a discovery: wildlife is not important to everybody! This sounds weird doesn’t it?
My field is restoration ecology, or how humans can try to re-establish a bit of the environment they disturbed – or entirely destroyed. This is often the case in mining. Mines do destroy the landscape where they operate. Yes, but they can also put it back!
This is called mine rehabilitation, not every mine does it, nor do they do it always well. In places like the USA, Canada or Australia, the governments give guidelines to mining companies to rehabilitate the best possible. Part of these government guidelines proposes ways to assess the success of rehabilitation.
And guess what is not in these guidelines?
Usually it goes like this: get the structure of the landscape right (how it looks), leave no garbage or pollution behind, assess water level & quality and finally get the vegetation right. Now, that definitely sounds like a good start to me! But isn’t there something missing?? Where is the assessment of whether rehabilitation is a success for wildlife??
Where I work I convinced my colleagues that this is important. This was the conclusion on my 4-years PhD and luckily, the mine did follow my recommendations. As a now Fauna Researcher (note the capital letters) I have the privilege of annoying some wonderful creatures (warning: I do have all the ethical clearances for that!).
There is one main way I spy on wildlife in rehabilitated areas. And it is FUN! I actually go around the rehabilitated areas and deploy remote infra red cameras. These cameras you might have seen in front of people home / businesses as “security cameras”.
They are activated by movements, work day and night, and take a picture of whatever it is that is moving in front of the camera. For me it’s perfect as I can live them for some time, without disturbing wildlife, and usually animals move thus will trigger the camera.
Then I collect my cameras and go through the pictures (this is the best part!). I can know which animal is found where. Some animals don’t seem to notice the camera, and some definitely know something new is there. I even had a wallaby trying to nibble on the strap!
Here you can see a mum wallaby with a baby in her pouch, plus another guy eating behind
This koala has some place to be!
This is called an echidna train. The female echidna is leading the dance, with all her admirers in tow! Echidnas are incredible mammals that lay eggs and feed their babies milk (they are called monotreme. The only other monotreme is the platypus)
If there are places of the mine
rehabilitation that have no animal (or too few), we will be able to develop
management actions to improve the quality of rehabilitated areas for wildlife.
This is my positive impact on wildlife! Making sure areas already mined are
going to be returned to wildlife.
Mines are destructive, but they are not forever.
When a mine leaves, it can and should do a great job to re-create a wildlife friendly place. I cannot stop mining (and to be honest, I use products from mining like anyone else), but I sure will try my best to influence mining rehabilitation to achieve the best outcome for wildlife!