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Fire Management
 
The jarrah forest ecosystem has a long history of periodic burning. The long hot dry summer, the accumulation of highly flammable plant material, thunderstorms and windy conditions makes fire inevitable in the jarrah forest. The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) currently undertakes low intensity prescribed burns in and around our mines.
 
Completion criteria require that rehabilitated areas can regenerate after a wildfire, and have the potential to be integrated into DEC’s prescribed fire management plans. Alcoa has been undertaking research into the effect of fire on rehabilitated areas over the past 15 years.
 
This research has focused on determining the most appropriate fire regime to use in rehabilitated areas, the age the rehabilitation becomes resilient to fire, and the integration of prescribed burning of unmined forest with rehabilitated areas.

Results have shown that low to moderate intensity spring burns are the best fire regime to use in rehabilitated areas, that rehabilitated areas are resilient to fire at a young age and that integrated fire management can be undertaken.
 
Prescribed burning in rehabilitated areas not only focuses on reducing fuel loads and protecting life and property, but also on stimulating germination and vigour of the understorey and trees. Many areas of rehabilitated mine pits have now been burned and they are regenerating successfully.

Each year, annual and rolling five year burn plans are developed jointly with DEC utilising the output from this research.
 


Fire burning in forest along haul road

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A prescribed burn in rehabilitated forest next to a haul road.

Pink and Blue graph of burn statistics

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Trials showed prescribed burning in spring, as opposed to autumn, reduced the number of weeds germinating after burning.