Group

 
The Headquarters of Minerali Industriali in Novara. (Picture: Massimo Mormile)

 
Minerali Industriali produces raw materials for the ceramic and glass industry. The cultivation of the mines occurs in the open, except for one underground, and affects small portions of land at a time, which remain bare at the end of operation and need to be revived. This is often difficult because the soil remaining at the end of operation is sterile, being formed by parent rock. To make the return of vegetation possible in a short time, it is necessary to spread a layer of about two feet of fertile soil over the rock. On this new ground, we sow grass species and trees and shrubs are planted, restoring the vegetation cover. This can also be obtained economically, for example, using poor nursery material, saving on tilling or adjusting the vegetation only in the most accessible points, ultimately trying to do the minimum to comply with the law. But this is where the "green" mentality of the Group comes into play, which aims not only to "obey" the provisions, but go further: do something useful for Nature, namely recreating environments that can host rare species of animals that find fewer and fewer living spaces. In other words, it wants to create environments that have multiple purposes: to satisfy the requirements of the law, fight against erosion, contribute to the conservation of wild flora and fauna, serve as an example to other production activities and concretely demonstrate that a responsible industrial activity can be eco-friendly. But how does each restoration project arise? It cannot be a "copy/paste" method because each site has its own variable characteristics on which the plant species that can be introduced will depend. In fact, the microclimate, exposure, slope, nature and acidity of the laid soil widely vary the strategies to be employed. For example, if the climate is rainy, as in Piedmont, time will do all the work, while in Sardinia we would obtain poor results without artificial irrigation. While, for example, the high pH level in Piedmont offers refuge to acidophilus species such as the chestnut, the same plant is unlikely to thrive in the low pH soild of Sardinia, where basophiles species such as the Mediterranean hackberry is preferred. Slope and exposure are also important: in low incline soils, you can sow by hand without using geonets, while in steep places, it is essential to use these guards. In awkward places, where its impossible to extend a geonet, we must resort to hydroseeding, which involves "shooting" a jet of water containing seeds, adhesive, fertilizer and liquid geonet.
The grass mixture must also possess certain characteristics: over the years the Group has tested mixtures that can be used on arid or wet, loose or packed soils, learning to use the species of trees and shrubs that give the best results, both in the North and Central-South of Italy.
Before the planting phase the most important phase must be studied: how to arrange the vegetation! As a scrub-land, in rows, individually, with single plant varieties or mixed? Here the most important question to ask ourselves is: "Which species of animals could be attracted by this redevelopment?" Yes, because depending on how the vegetation is arranged or how we set up the various micro-environments, there will be a certain type of response from the wildlife. If we create a pond rather than a forest, we will attract animals with a completely different ecology! "Is it more logical, considering each and every mine, to increase the aquatic or forest fauna? "This will depend on the fauna situation present on territories near the mine. In an area already rich in forests, it will be more convenient to create an alternative environment such as a field, which can attract steppe species and still be useful to the forest communities; imagine a deer coming out of the forest to graze. In other cases, the reasoning is more targeted, for example, to favor a single species or a class of animals rather than another. For example, in a mine in the Biella area, a rural environment has be recreated to only accommodate the woodlark (Lullula arborea), in other places, the ponds have been "furnished" with small islands to favor the nesting of some water birds that love the absence of terrestrial predators, such as the fox. In still other areas, small groups of irregular shrubs have been arranged to alternate with grasslands, to allow the red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) not only to nest among the bushes, but also to hunt insects in the nearby grass. In a large restoration of 20 hectares, a wide range of micro habitats has been recreated to allow the census of 119 different species of birds; on another site, 51 species of butterflies have been counted (Bordignon 2007, 2008 - Bordignon & Grussu, 2011).
Finally, in all the former mines of Minerali Industriali, we try to give added value to the restoration, through the passion-filled work of a dedicated team of employees.