Olatuyi, S. O. and Leskiw, L. A. 2015. Evaluation of soil reclamation techniques at the Key Lake uranium mine. Can. J. Soil Sci. 95: 153-176. Adequate soil nutrients and water supply are critical to vegetation establishment and creation of sustainable ecosystems in post-disturbed mining sites. This study investigated effects of various amendments and capping techniques on soil quality and moisture distribution on a reclaimed waste rock pile at the Key Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan, Canada. Soil profiles were reconstructed in 2010 using locally available sandy glacial materials to create soil covers of 1 m thickness. The reclamation treatments consisted of a Control plot, commercial peat (Peat), a local lake sediment (Sediment), underlying flax straw (Straw), mulched forest floor and Ae (LFH), fertilizer (NPK), manure pellets (Pellets), and a demonstration plot (Demo) comprised of Sediment, LFH and Pellets. Soil amendments were applied by various techniques as broadcast, surface incorporation, below the surface or surface mounding. Annual plot monitoring was conducted from 2011 to 2013 and soil samples were analyzed for pH, electrical conductivity (EC), sodium adsorption ratio (SAR), available nutrients, cation exchange capacity (CEC), total organic carbon (TOC), total nitrogen (TN), and regulated metals. Volumetric moisture contents were measured periodically to examine soil moisture response to growing-season precipitation. In 2013, the topsoil of the Control plot was slightly acidic (pH of 6.3) while the Sediment and Demo plots had the lowest pH of 4.0. The EC and SAR values were below 1.0 in all treatment plots. The highest levels of available N, TN, TOC and CEC were in the Sediment and Demo plots, followed by the Peat. The concentration of arsenic exceeded the regulatory limit by 3.4- and 2.6-fold in the Sediment and Demo topsoil, respectively, while concentrations of other metals were below the limits in all treatment plots. The Sediment and Demo treatments were most effective in retaining water in the topsoil, while application of soil amendment by mounding enhanced infiltration and water transmission in the profile. In terms of soil fertility and moisture storage, the combination of organic amendments in multi-layers plus surface mounding, as in the Demo plot, is the most promising capping technique for restoring soil health, vegetative cover and ecosystem functions on the waste rock pile.
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Vol. 95 • No. 2