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Contour banks in spoil rehabilitation – a matter of timing


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Author J L Merritt


Contour banks and waterways are standard soil conservation measures to assist farmers reduce the impact of gully erosion on sloping cropping land by reducing the slope length to the interval between the banks. The Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) developed by the USA Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service in 1930s predicts the long-term average annual soil loss (A).The equation is the product of the rainfall erosivity factor (R), the soil erodibility factor (K), the topographic factors of slope length and angle (L and S) and the cropping management factors (C and P). Contour banks reduce the slope length (L) only.

Contour banks are a constructed earth embankment, incorporating a channel on the upslope side, typically traversing a slope on or close to the contour to control and/or prevent the erosion of that slope. The banks are also referred to as graded banks, terraces, or bunds (DSITI 2015). Contour banks are either broad based or narrow based. Broad based banks allow the passage of the machinery over the banks whilst narrow based bank batters are too steep preventing the passage of machinery. Waterways are a stable, longitudinally sloping water disposal area of sufficient capacity used to discharge surplus runoff from the contour bank and to allow it to flow to a lower level without causing erosion (DSITI 2015).

The mining industry must decide what the role for contour banks and waterways is in each operation’s rehabilitation and closure plan.


Merritt, J L, 2018. Contour banks in spoil rehabilitation – a matter of timing, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2018, pp 147–149 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).