In 2011 the client, an international mining company, agreed to meet state agency requirements for mitigation of impacts in two watersheds, in return for a permit to mine its current taconite pit in NE Minnesota. Referred to as the “15 points”, the guidelines include formation of wetland and shoreline habitat. They also reiterate revegetation and other standards consistent with current state reclamation rules. The result of the project is the Landscape Framework Plan submitted here.

The Framework lays out a 60-year strategy for the repair and rehabilitation of an 11-mile mine into a functioning landscape. It presents a systematic approach to reclamation during mining and once mining is completed, including installation of innovative practices throughout the mine. The Framework is a ‘living guide’ for ongoing repair and reclamation that mine engineers can use to make day-to-day reclamation design decisions that respond to production planning and environmental conditions. Four major goals include:
• reconnect to perimeter woodlands via seeding or planting of both native and adaptive species
• invest in rebuilding soil

• construct connected target species corridors
• concentrate effort in ‘rehabilitation zones’

Key Framework elements:

Implementation Road Map for activation over time.

Landscape Units. Six named landscape units based on landform character and current mine information are the mine’s planning and design infrastructure. The Living Lab unit, located on publicly visible mined land, will model progressive reclamation practices to be monitored for replication throughout the mine.

Field Manual. A 3-ring binder houses unit maps, implementation matrices, state guidelines, and installation prescriptions. Hand-drawn illustrations depict future scenarios. Technical handbooks providing additional seeding, bioengineering, and planting information are enclosed.

First master strategy for mineland reclamation in the region.

Knowledge application The Framework focuses on the mine as a working landscape that can be reknit into surrounding adaptive and natural systems through the formation of corridors, patches, littoral zones and use of diverse plant palettes (self-colonizing natives, non native volunteer species adapted to mine conditions, species favorable to anticipated climate change).

Landscape units deconstruct the mine, a technique particularly popular with team mine engineers. The analysis reinforces a landscape vision clear enough to be implemented by a succession of personnel. These imageable areas provide a structure for repair and a personality that maintains company enthusiasm for its eventual implementation. Each unit is scaled to help mine engineers implement specific reclamation practices within the context of production.

Implementation Road Map actualized over time within the company and over successions of personnel. Stated tasks and action steps institutionalize the Framework within company practices. Making physical design ideas real in the office and projecting them as outcomes for personnel needing metrics is critical to implementation. It monitors the progress of in-house decision-making and anticipates the ‘career sheds’ of those responsible for implementation.

Waste as resource. The client removes massive volumes of land and landscape materials in order to access minerals. Vegetation, logs and slash, topsoil, boulders, peat, etc. are considered waste because they are not capitalized in the mining revenue equation. These materials are, however, ‘free resources’ that can successfully help recreate ‘native’ infrastructure. Harvesting and storing them for future applications makes them investment resources for the client, with substantial savings. Recycling them illustrates smart use of all mine assets.

Field Manual. The simple three-ring binder format is purposeful. Pages can be added or removed for copying or distribution. Visual formats are conservative to be understandable to any user, whether engineers or operational personnel unfamiliar with design practice but responsible for installation. Hand drawn diagrams and illustrations clearly prescribe techniques and depict future scenarios. Given implementation timelines, illustrations convey desired character rather than explicit designs that could be assumed from digital media.