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Reclamation is the restoration of equivalent productivity to natural areas damaged through processes such as erosion, mining, flooding, or commercial development. Reclamation specialists identify contaminated areas, develop reclamation plans, and inspect, monitor, and evaluate reclamation projects. They also provide direction to clients to ensure compliance with applicable federal and provincial environmental regulations.
At a glanceImagine you are standing in the tall green grass of a farmer's pasture, admiring the lush vegetation that signifies productive soil. You are a reclamation specialist and this farmer's pasture was the site of one of your biggest projects. An abandoned mine used to sit at the foot of this field, and the pile of waste rock generated during the mining operation was producing acid rock drainage. The pH of soil in the area was too low to grow any grass or crops, and there were concerns that contaminants were leaking into groundwater aquifers. You were called in to manage a project that would clean up the rock pile and other mine remains to improve soil conditions and protect the watershed. As a reclamation specialist, you have worked on projects like this one at sites all over the province and know the kinds of information needed to develop a reclamation plan. For the farmer's pasture, you started by researching the site's history: aside from the mine, what else had the land been used for? Knowing the site's history made it easier to identify potential contaminants. Once you knew what kinds of contaminants to look for, you identified potential pollution pathways these contaminants might travel within the environment. For example, you wanted to know if they were leachable or water soluble, or if they vaporized easily into the air. You used this information to develop a reclamation plan that included strategies for removing pollutants, sampling protocols for monitoring the process, and procedures for restoring the site after the contaminants were removed. After the provincially appointed reclamation committee approved your plan, you implemented it, including hiring contractors and managing supplies. Poor-quality trees were removed from the site so graders could contour the land, and agricultural limestone was applied to the waste rock to neutralize the acid. The soil was then fertilized, seeded, and mulched to restore nutrients and balance pH and other elements. You researched and managed this project for months, but it is all worth it when you see the results and know your work has improved soil conditions and protected the area's groundwater sources.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a reclamation specialist:
- Administer and conduct activities for reclamation projects.
- Conduct on-site evaluations and analysis of environmental conditions, including soil, groundwater, surface water, and air quality characteristics.
- Identify contaminants and map pollution pathways and their environmental impacts.
- Research techniques for reclamation of disturbed land and water bodies.
- Develop reclamation plans.
- Secure applicable federal and provincial environmental approvals and certificates.
- Liaise with clients and regulatory bodies.
- Generate and administer contracts.
- Evaluate and monitor reclamation projects, including site preparation, remediation, sampling protocols, and results.
Work environmentReclamation specialists work in a variety of locations, including: In the office:
- Doing paperwork, analyzing data, and preparing reports
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, stakeholders, and government departments, and presenting reclamation plans and recommendations to clients
- Developing reclamation plans, including preparing environmental applications, generating contracts, and managing budgets
- Researching reclamation techniques and consulting with other reclamation specialists and professionals
- Touring and inspecting sites, including pre- and post-construction
- Collecting samples and recording data and observations
Where to workThere are a number of places reclamation specialists can find employment. They include:
- Environmental and engineering consulting firms
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
- Colleges, universities, and research institutes
- Waste management firms
- Firms in other industries, for example oil and gas, mining, and forestry
- Not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as a reclamation specialist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Environmental Science
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Earth Sciences
- Soil Science