Whitewood Mine Closure

Dean MacKenzie
Kevin Renkema
Dan Kuchmak
G. Janssen
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Transalta’s Whitewood Mine is one of three TransAlta-owned surface coal mines. It is located north of Lake Wabamun, about 70 kilometres (43 miles) west of Edmonton, Alberta, and has been in operation since 1962. The mine is in the final stages of closure after almost 50 years of operation. To date, approximately 1665 hectares of post-disturbed land has been reclaimed, including one end pit lake, numerous wetland features, woodland/wildlife areas revegetated through assisted natural recovery and in the majority, perennially cropped agricultural lands. A total of 890 hectares of reclaimed land has been certified with another 480 hectares in process with the regulators. The remaining 210 hectares will be reclaimed to include two end pit lakes surrounded by wildlife/wetland habit thus completing the reclamation closure plan. Current challenges for the closure of Whitewood Mine include a topsoil deficit (Parkland forests have very little topsoil) for placement, erosion control around the end pit lakes, weed control, reforestation, shoreline and wildlife habitat revegetation and end land use transfer. Given the lack of topsoil on pre-mined lands, vast areas have been reclaimed using only suitable overburden resulting in the creation of mostly class 3 to 5 agricultural capabilities. Past studies on the mine show the overburden is of good quality and with proper fertilization the crop yields are equivalent to areas reclaimed with topsoil. Reclamation practices have evolved overtime along with regulatory requirements. Proposed adaptive management practices to overcome these challenges are discussed.