Sudbury

Vale continues annual aerial seeding targeting barren land south of Coniston

Hoppers attached to helicopters will disperse a mix of grass seen over 100 hectares of barren land south of Coniston's slag piles.

Company says annual reseeding across area an attempt to correct ‘some historic mistakes’

Vale's regreening efforts in the Sudbury area include re-seeding the land using a helicopter equipped with a dispersal hopper. (Supplied by Vale Canada)

Greater Sudbury has become well known for its regreening efforts.

More than 40 years ago, the landscape of the city was dark, desolate rocks and little vegetation. Most of that devastation can be linked back to mining and the smoke emitted from smelters.

In the late 1970s there was an effort to regreen the area.

Now the city boasts about its natural habitat, picturesque hiking trails and green healthy vegetation.

Part of that reclamation effort can be attributed to an annual aerial seeding program.

Since the 1990s, Vale Canada has been spreading grass seed across swaths of barren land.

Quintin Smith, an environmental engineer with Vale's Ontario Operations said for the past two years, the annual effort has used helicopters with hoppers attached.

"Historically it was done using agricultural aircraft that would fly low over the ground," Smith said. "These days we're using helicopters to provide a much more targeted and uniform application of the materials we're putting down."

The helicopters will be flying over the 100 hectares south of Coniston's slag piles, spreading a seed mix tweaked over the years to include 10 different grass seed mixes, Smith said.

The City of Greater Sudbury then follows up with its tree-planting crews, walking the land to plant approximately 10,000 trees.

"Getting grasses and small scale vegetation established over these barren lands is the first step in reclamation," Smith said. "And the next step would be coming in and planting things like white and red and jack pine seedlings to help return that area to what it looked like before we all arrived in Sudbury."

Aview of Coniston in 1979 (left) compared to 2006 (right). Vale continues its reseeding efforts across the Sudbury region, targeting the slag lands south of Coniston. (Supplied/City of Greater Sudbury)

To date, Smith said the company has treated approximately 3,800 hectares. It's part of what Smith calls a strong commitment from the company to the local environment.

"We understand that we, as well as other mining companies in the area, had an impact on the surrounding environment from our historic operations," Smith said. "We view this program as a way of sort of meaningfully giving back and meaningfully trying to correct some of those historic mistakes."

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