Healthy soils are the foundation for effective rehabilitation strategies at mine sites. However, most mines will fall short of sufficient quantity and/or quality of topsoil during rehabilitation efforts. The situation is even more challenging for older mining operations which presently face severe topsoil deficits. There is great need and potential for improving open cut coal mine site remediation outcomes, by accelerating the transformation of mine spoils to functional soils.

Soil microbiology is central to ongoing soil formation. Understanding and harnessing microbial processes represents an opportunity to accelerate the transformation of coal mine spoils to stable, fertile soils and improve rehabilitation outcomes in topsoil deficit situations. However, there are currently no proven strategies to consistently restore soil microbial functionality (a key component of soil quality) rapidly in rehabilitation situations.

The proposed research project will focus on understanding microbial processes that are critical in soil formation from mine spoils. This information will be the platform for developing a microbial product that could be used to accelerate on-site soil formation at coal mines facing topsoil deficits.

Advisory Team: Dr Emma Gagen, Professor Gordon Southam

Funding: UQ Research Training Program

Project members