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Fire Behaviour in Buffel Grass Dominated Mine Site Rehabilitation in Central Queensland, Australia

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Author P McKenna, V C Glenn, P D Erskine, D Doley and A Sturgess

Description

For more than four decades, rehabilitated lands in the Bowen Basin have been planted with buffel grass (Cenchrus Ciliaris), which is often used to provide rapid, stabilising and erosion reducing cover to reshaped landforms (Erskine and Fletcher, 2013; Harwood, Hacker and Mott, 1999; Grigg, Shelton and Mullen, 2000; Naidu et al, 1997). Historically introduced to Central Queensland and encouraged by pastoralists in the early 1900s (Humphreys, 1967), the species has been extensively used by mine managers in seeding mixes (Coaldrake and Russell, 1970; Edye, 1975), and the invasive nature of the grass has led to the monodominance in rehabilitated areas of semi-arid Central Queensland.

With 40 open cut coalmines in Central Queensland (Department of Natural Resources and Mines, 2015), a considerable amount of land is either disturbed mine footprint (156 200 ha) or rehabilitated (29 200 ha) (Dale, 2015), and the bulk of rehabilitation consists of relatively young (<30-year-old) developing ecosystems, with demonstrated biomass fuel loads up to 20 t/ha (Grigg, Shelton and Mullen, 2000). Uncontrolled fire poses a significant risk to rehabilitated landforms that are located in close proximity to mining infrastructure, neighbouring communities, open pits with exposed flammable coal seams and flammable stockpiled coal resource. Mine lease holders in Queensland have the added responsibility of managing and protecting any endangered regional ecosystem communities, and flora and fauna listed federally under the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999 or the State Vegetation Management Act 1999; as well as, any culturally significant sites such as scar trees or middens that are found on-site. Additionally, uncontrolled fire in rehabilitated landscapes poses a significant risk to mine site closure goals, with the potential to create altered states and stalled ecological trajectories (Grant, 2006). CITATION:

McKenna, P, Glenn, V, Erskine, P D, Doley, D and Sturgess,
A, 2016. Fire behaviour in buffel grass dominated mine site rehabilitation in
Central Queensland, Australia, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2016
Conference
, pp 158–162 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).