Effect of Duration of Reclamation on Soil Quality Indicators of a Surface – Mined Acid Forest Oxisol in South – Western Ghana
The quality of degraded mined soils can be restored through effective reclamation practices. In this study, we evaluated the impact of varying duration of land reclamation on soil quality at AngloGold Ashanti, Iduapriem mine Ltd., Tarkwa, Ghana. Soil samples were taken from mined sites of the Company at various stages of phytoremediation: 2, 5, 9 and 11 year old reclaimed sites. The soils were analyzed for soil quality indicators. A nearby forest reserve representative of the pre-degraded condition was used as the control. Prior to phytoremediation with multipurpose agroforestry trees, the mined soils were subjected by the Company to earthworks/slope battering followed by spreading of oxide materials over the surface, construction of crest drains and cover cropping. Having determined the impact of the varying duration of reclamation on soil quality indicators, separate pot experiments involving maize and cowpea were set up using soils from the sites to assess heavy metals accumulation in the cultivated crops. Soil nutrient levels in the sites under reclamation were significantly higher (P < 0.05) than the nearby forest reserve. Soil pH though generally low, was relatively higher (P < 0.05) in sites under reclamation than in the control. Soil total nitrogen, available phosphorus and exchangeable potassium levels were highest (P < 0.05) in the 11 year old site. Zinc contents of all sites were below the maximum permissible levels. There was somewhat antagonistic interaction between zinc and phosphorus contents of maize in the unclaimed site. Though heavy metal concentrations in maize were lower than that of cowpea, the concentrations in both plants were generally beyond the permissible levels suggesting a possible transfer onto the food chain if the crops are included as part of rotation programmes from the agronomic perspective. Our results indicate that phytoremediation of mined lands using agroforestry multipurpose trees could be marginal even after a decade of reclamation.