The key goals for mine site rehabilitation require mine managers to demonstrate that rehabilitation is safe, stable, self-sustainable and non-polluting. Within this context, it is reasonable for stakeholders to expect that mine site rehabilitation is resilient to disturbance impacts such as fire and drought. However, mine managers actively avoid fire on rehabilitation; and as a result have limited understanding of fire behaviour on revegetated landforms, the long term implications for site stability and the potential risk to site relinquishment. An experimental fire that was conducted at the Curragh Mine site in May 2015, burnt 117 ha of 19- to 21-year old mine site rehabilitation, mimicking wildfire conditions and creating a mosaic of fire impacts across the landform. Using a combination of ground surveys and remote sensing assessments, we demonstrate that over a two year period, ecological metrics such as species richness, woody density and understorey biomass all recover to pre-fire levels for both grassland and open woodland areas. This is supported by WorldView-3 satellite imagery and the remote sensing assessment using the differenced Normalised Differenced Vegetation Index (dNDVI) which shows high regrowth within the burn area in 12- and 24-month image captures. The results suggest that within the recorded conditions, this site is resilient to fire impacts, and has the capacity to recover to pre-fire levels within the first two years following the fire.
McKenna, P, Erskine, P D, Phinn, S, Glenn, V and Doley, D, 2018. Measuring the recovery of coal mine rehabilitation following fire in Queensland using remote sensing and ground surveys, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2018, pp 141–146 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).