Green Gold: Unlikely Moss Innovation Sparks Hope for Healing Mining’s Scars

Daniel Pacurar, Boreal Orchards, and Matt Baida, VAST AB.
Daniel Pacurar, Boreal Orchards, and Matt Baida, VAST AB.

An innovative Swedish project using moss to accelerate the restoration of ecosystems disturbed by mining could become a game-changer for the global mining industry, according to experts.

The project, called “ReMOSS,” is being led by Daniel Pacurar, founder and executive chairman of Boreal Orchards AB, and brings together landscape architects, scientists, and major mining companies. It aims to develop moss-based “biocrusts” to promote ecological recovery on mined lands.

“If it turns out as well as expected, it could set a new standard for the mining industry,” said Matt Baida, CEO of the landscape architect agency VAST AB and project manager for ReMOSS.

The 2.8 million Swedish kronor initiative is funded by the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova and four mining companies — Boliden, Copperstone Resources, LKAB, and Talga. It will run from November 2023 to June 2025.

Native mosses collected from nearby sites will be propagated and hydro-seeded onto test plots at an LKAB iron ore mine and a former graphite mine owned by Talga. As hardy, adaptable organisms, mosses can thrive even on rocky substrates and help stabilize soils, reduce erosion, and create conditions for further plant growth.

“When Daniel explained what moss can do, it seemed so obvious and was a real eye-opener,” said Baida, describing his first meeting with Pacurar. “I look forward to seeing how it evolves, and how other plants establish with the moss.”

The moss-based biocrusts align with goals to improve biodiversity and ecological restoration in mining regions, according to LKAB spokesperson Anna Lindberg.

“It is crucial for LKAB to recreate functional local ecosystems when we leave an area,” Lindberg said. “Establishing an ecosystem from the ground up with moss is particularly promising.”

Peter French, environment and community manager at Talga, highlighted moss’s aesthetic value in restoring the landscape’s natural appearance. “A different, more sterile, visual impression is created when land is broken up,” he said. “This project has great potential to help recreate the landscape.”

Pacurar, who receives business support from the Umeå Biotech Incubator, made a quick start on the project after visiting test sites in September. He believes the approach could significantly benefit both nature and mining companies.

“Mining disturbed land is associated with habitat destruction and biodiversity loss,” Pacurar said. “We aim to accelerate the ecological restoration of these sites and return them to nature and communities.”

The ReMOSS project is supported by the Swedish Mining Innovation program, a Vinnova, Formas and Swedish Energy Agency collaboration. Alongside Boreal Orchards, VAST AB, and mining partners, researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences are also participating.

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