Gully erosion on rehabilitated bauxite mines

Faron Mengler

    Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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    [Truncated abstract] Landforms rehabilitated after bauxite mining can be vulnerable to soil loss by water erosion processes. On most rehabilitated sites, management controls such as deep ripping, contour mounding and landscaped sub-catchments limit erosion. Despite these measures, severe gully erosion that is anecdotally associated with steep slopes can damage rehabilitated areas and affect downstream drinking water resources. A review of erosion dynamics reveals that gullies develop episodically and in a non-linear manner. They often initiated as a near surface process and are influenced by natural climatic drivers. Despite this, local site characteristics including soil and landform can predispose an area to gully erosion. Moreover, erosion models, becoming more-widely utilized within the mining industry, may provide useful tools with which to measure, analyse, and manage gully erosion. One of these models, SIBERIA was tested to determine its suitability for application a tool to help manage erosion risk. We first surveyed 26 eroding and erosion-prone rehabilitated hillslopes to determine the common form and setting for gully erosion on these rehabilitated bauxite mines. A conceptual model was developed to include and explore the interplay between the common causes of the gullies surveyed. The conceptual model accounts for slope steepness but suggests that additionally, certain triggers and threshold effects operating under different site conditions are as influential (or even more influential) than slope steepness as determinants of gully erosion occurrence and severity. ... Soil properties and soil erodibility had some subtle influence on landform stability and erosion risk. The most-erodible media occurred where either: mine floor material was mixed with topsoil/ overburden; and/or the topsoil/overburden layer was thin or its coverage is patchy resulting in slaking subsoil, hardsetting soil and surface crusts. When erodible surface media were combined with steeper (>8[degrees]) or longer (>50 m) slopes or with any major erosion trigger, rill and gully development was greatly intensified. The SIBERIA simulation model was calibrated and its simulated outputs were compared to known locations of gully erosion on a steep, rehabilitated pit from the Willowdale mine. At a resolution of one metre, SIBERIA was able to simulate the approximate dimensions of gullies. However, SIBERIA could not simulate the exact location of individual gully headcuts. Additionally, SIBERA was able to simulate the effect of different microtopographic surface treatments but this was only achieved by increasing the grid resolution to 25 cm and reducing the size of the area simulated due to model constraints. Locations of gully headcuts were overlain onto a grid-based, Digital Elevation Model (DEM) using a Geographic Information System (GIS). The spatial distribution of gully headcut locations was compared to DEM derivatives such as slope and flow accumulation. Positive, and predictive relationships allow between the steepness of the slope of the pre-mining landform and the cell count of the area contributing to flow (catchment), as determined by GIS, may allow a mine scale indication of erosion risk using simple GIS desktop analysis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2008


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