Many people think mining and environmental responsibility cannot go hand-in-hand, but Monsanto’s wholly owned subsidiary, P4 Production LLC, has proved they can. It’s possible to return a mining site to a functioning ecosystem where vegetation and wildlife thrive. We know this because we’ve done it. It’s our belief responsible mining starts years before turning the first shovel of dirt—and that includes thorough planning to restore the land once mining is complete.
Creating a New Ecosystem
Land reclamation is the process of creating a vegetative cover over disturbed lands to allow for pre-mining uses to be reinstituted. But we don’t just reclaim the land. We create a diverse, functioning ecosystem that encourages a large and thriving population of mammals, birds, insects and other living creatures. This is done by reestablishing animal habitats, restoring pollination systems, and taking steps to protect water and soil quality.
Our reclamation activities start long before mining does. Before the land is touched, we spend years analyzing, inventorying, and conducting multiple studies on plants, animals, water sources and other parts of the environment that might be affected by mining. We do this so we know the state of the ecosystem and can restore it afterward. This is why our reclamation practices are among the most environmentally advanced in North America.
Shaping a Landscape
Once mining begins, we usually start our reclamation within one to three years. When we reclaim an area, we start by designing and shaping the land forms in ways that mimic nature and reduce the possibility of selenium being leached from the mined rock that is buried underneath. Selenium leaching has been a problem phosphate mining has faced in the past, and if too much selenium enters the water sources or vegetation, it can be harmful to animals. That’s why we support and will implement the use of a laminated geosynthetic clay liner (GCL) in our proposed Blackfoot Bridge mine. This liner will surround the selenium-containing waste rock, forming a barrier between it and the water, and thereby limiting leaching to a tiny fraction of what would occur in traditional reclamation efforts.
Planting Vegetation and Encouraging Wildlife
Once the land is shaped, we start planting vegetation. We know diversity is key to restoring the land, and that’s why we use 20 species of native grasses, wildflowers and other plants on our land. In some cases, we’ve even collected seeds from trees and shrubs that were on the land before, sent them to nurseries to grow, and then transplanted the new trees to their native land.
But we don’t stop with planting vegetation that will attract butterflies, bees and other wildlife. We also construct habitats to give protective cover to small animals, such as rockchucks, red-tail fox, ground squirrels and other creatures that are also food for hawks, eagles and a rich assortment of other birds that inhabit the area.
All of these practices demonstrate why various governmental agencies, including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the Idaho Department of Lands, have recognized us for our outstanding reclamation efforts. Additionally, two of our mines have been certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council.
This isn’t something we do alone, though. We work with many local and national groups and organizations to make sure we’re doing all we can to meet the needs of the wildlife on these lands. Some of these groups include:
- Bat Conservation International
- Caribou Soil Conservation District
- Ducks Unlimited
- Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation
- North American Moose Foundation
- Pheasants Forever
- Southeast Idaho Mule Deer Foundation
- Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
- Trumpeter Swan Society