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Impact of surface coal mining on soil hydraulic properties

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2015, Vol. 338, No. 1, pp. 381-392

Liu, X.; Wu, J.Q.; Conrad, P.W.; Dun, S.; Todd, C.S.; McNearny, R.L.; Elliot, W.J.; Rhee, H.; Clark, P.


Soil erosion is strongly related to soil hydraulic properties. Understanding how surface coal mining affects these properties is therefore important in developing effective management practices to control erosion during reclamation. To determine the impact of mining activities on soil hydraulic properties, soils from undisturbed areas, areas of roughly graded mine spoil, areas with replaced topsoil before seeding, and revegetated areas at the Rosebud Mine in Eastern Montana were evaluated. Field and laboratory studies were conducted to determine the soil hydraulic properties of the four representative areas, including particle-size distribution, organic matter content and saturated hydraulic conductivity.Using this data, Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) simulations and risk analyses were performed to investigate mining’s effects on changes in soil erosion potential. Significant differences were seen in the hydraulic properties of the soils in the representative areas due to the mining and reclamation practices at the mine. The WEPP simulations show that the potential for soil erosion increases as a result of mining activities disturbing the soil. The simulations also indicate that the erosion potential may return to pre-mining levels over time with effective revegetation practices.