Vale's aerial seeding program to regreen 'black Sudbury rock landscape'

Mining company Vale is conducting its aerial seeding program on 120 hectares of its property, just south of Coniston this week. The aircraft will be loaded with grass seed and fertilizer to be dispersed over barren land that has been affected by smelter activities.

Annual regreening efforts underway on 120 hectares of company property south of Coniston

Two planes will fly over Vale property south of Coniston to disperse grass seed and fertilizer over barren land affected by smelter activity. (Steve Howard/CBC)

There will be a couple of low flying and noisy planes overhead in Coniston, Ont., this week.

Vale is conducting its aerial seeding program over 120 hectares of company property, just south of Coniston.

The agricultural aircraft will be loaded with lime grass seed and fertilizer says Quintin Smith, an environmental engineer with the mining company.

That product will be dispersed over barren land that has been affected by the company's historic smelter activities.

Much of the land Vale regreens has been affected by sulfur dioxide or SO2 emissions, which has a negative impact on vegetation, Smith says.

"What ends up happening in these stressed or barren areas is first we lose the vegetation and then we lose the soil."

Smith adds that usually they are seeding almost bare rock, with very little soil. 

"The typical black, Sudbury rock landscape."

New grass looks like green fuzz on a tennis ball

Smith says Vale's reclamation team does do regular inspections of sites that have been reclaimed or regreened in the past.

"Even just a few months following the application we get immediate germination of our grass seed that we're applying. When we go out to do our inspections and our audits we definitely see that the grass is coming in where it hasn't been before."

"From the almost looks like green fuzz, like from a tennis ball, that is covering the landscape."

He calls this aerial seeding project the first step in the regreening and land reclamation process, since other crews come in afterwards to plant tree saplings.

Since Vale started its seeding program in 1990, more than 3,480 hectares of land have been remediated in the Sudbury basin.

"We do see the results, and we see the success."


  • An earlier version of this story referred to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. They are in fact sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions.
    Sep 13, 2017 12:46 PM ET

With files from Angela Gemmill