Against the backdrop of the majestic Porongorups in the Great South lies the Red Dirt Seed Company headquarters. This is where CEO Jack Shiner stores, sorts and catalogues his vast selection of indigenous seeds ready for planting to rehabilitate old mining sites back into their surrounding environment.
The long term environmental impact of mining is an ongoing concern and sustainable mining is a complex issue for both the mining industry, rehabilitation experts and governments across Australia. Jack explains,” There is so much demand for mine site rehabilitation, we are always busy. There are new laws which mean that the rehabilitation of a mine site must now be considered and agreed before the mining even starts”.
Once Jack accepts a project the initial phase is to assess the proposed site and harvest the seeds from exiting plants in the area. In addition to doing this himself he also provides training to the local indigenous population. This then enables the traditional owners of the land the ability to harvest the seeds and sell them to Jack, who will then store them until required. Careful analysis of the soil and seed quality is needed prior to collection as the quality of these will determine the success of the final revegetation.
Once the harvest is complete the seeds are placed into storage and then, once the mining is over, Jack will return to the site, again with the assistance of indigenous locals, and scatter the seeds to enable the new growth. Jack tells me that this can be done mechanically, but that it is often performed by hand, with the ability to cover 20 hectares per day with just a small group of four or five people. This is all part of the training which Jack provides and is another source of income for the local population, which will promote the recovery of the land of their ancestors from the mine site activity. Providing these invaluable links promotes good community relations which benefit the people and the area into the future.
“The keys to achieving a good result are to have good quality seeds, a decent rainfall and good fencing to protect it whilst it grows”. Jack relates, “Of course, sometimes you have more success than others, but it’s so satisfying to see the difference a good revegetation makes to the landscape.”
Jack has between 300-400 different species of seeds in his storage facility at any one time and his vast knowledge of their origins and characteristics is astonishing. The seeds range vastly in shape, colour and size, some as large as your fist and others barely crumb-sized, and they often have very distinctive smells. With over 30 years’ experience in this industry Red Dirt Seeds provides rehabilitation services to 55 mining companies, who can each have multiple mine sites which need restoring once the mining has been completed.
Jack obviously takes great pride in his operation, and rightly so. He studied for his pilot’s license around 20 years ago to enable him to get to the mine sites quickly and affordably and he has his own small plane which he can pack with up to 48kg of seed and equipment. As most of the mine sites are situated in the Kimberleys and the Wheatbelt this was a smart move for Jack, enabling him to move around WA quickly and efficiently wherever he is needed. He is a passionate advocate for environmental sustainability and has also been involved in the creation of a wildlife corridor stretching from the Porongorups across the Stirling Range to the Fitzgerald River. This has been planted with indigenous seeds, again harvested from the area, and is now supporting the return of a diversity of local wildlife.
“This is exactly the same thing that we are trying to achieve with the mine site rehabilitation” Jack explains, “If you create the right environment the plants and wildlife will slowly return. It’s all about encouraging the local area to re-grow again in as close to it’s natural state as possible.”
There is undoubtably still plenty of work to do in the mining rehabilitation sector, but with responsible, responsive rehabilitation plants such as this, we can make progress with restoring the natural balance to these pillaged parts of Australia.
Jack can be contacted at Red Dirt Seeds on his website www.reddirtseeds.com.au