Mine Waste Rehabilitation And Slope Reinforcement

Poland's largest open coal mine was transformed into a multi-use recreational site thanks to mine waste rehabilitation from Neoloy® Geocells.

Challenge

BOT – Elektrownia Bełchatów operates the largest open coal mine in Belchatow, Poland. Excavated over-laying “waste” soil layers from the mine were piled in a dry waste “stack”, which over 30 years eventually became the 200m high by 4 km wide Mt. Kamiensk. BOT decided to rehabilitate this mountain into a multi-use recreational site. However, poor soil conditions (excavated sand, compacted soils, gravel) would not support revegetation. Meanwhile, very steep slopes (inclines ranging from 20-80 degrees) were not strong enough to withstand the problems of erosion and runoff.

Conventional Solution

The conventional reclamation approach was to haul and disperse large quantities of topsoil, and quickly plant vegetation with the hope that it would grow quickly and help to stabilize the soil and slopes. Not only would this solution require enormous quantities of topsoil, but slope failure would be a constant concern. Also, maintenance and repair of vegetation and eroding soil and slopes would be extensive. Stable slopes and access roads for heavy equipment were another key concern.

Neoloy Geocell Solution

Project planners decided to protect and stabilize the slopes with perforated 100 mm and 200 mm Neoloy Geocell arrays (depending on the incline of the slope). Infilled with local topsoil, the geocell confinement significantly reduced soil erosion. The Neoloy not only stabilized the slope, but the perforations provided excellent soil protection, water drainage and growth stratum for plants. Revegetation efforts by forestry authorities included 25 species of trees, as well as ground cover.

Conclusion:

Reclamation is an integral part of sustainable mining which includes environmental, social and economic aspects of mining activities. Neoloy Geocells were at the “base” of mine reclamation efforts that helped transform a large environmental nuisance into an attractive multiple use recreational site. Slope stabilization made this artificial mountain suitable for recreational activities such as downhill skiing (winter) and cycling (summer), while load support enabled access roads winding up the site to erect a wind turbine farm at the mountain top. Its unique structure provided an effective environment for extensive replanting efforts that included reforestation with natural species.

  • Very simple and quick installation even on steep slopes
  • Effective slope protection and reinforcement using local poorly graded inferior infill.
  • Load support properties enable durable access roads that wind up mountain, suitable for heavy maintenance vehicles
  • Cost-effective use of local materials and labor
  • Suitable for sustainable mining