Reclamation Specialist

What is a reclamation specialist? Reclamation, when in relation to the environment, is the restoration of equivalent productivity to natural areas damaged through processes such as erosion, mining, flooding, or commercial development. Reclamation is an important process in improving environmental sustainability.

At a Glance

Imagine 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 the 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 this 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 Duties

Duties 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
  • Manage forest lands and resources
  • Research techniques for reclamation of disturbed land and water bodies
  • Develop reclamation and restoration plans
  • Secure applicable federal and provincial environmental approvals and certificates
  • Liaise with clients and regulatory bodies
  • Knowledge of land management systems
  • Understand earth-moving and soil handling activities
  • Heavy and agricultural equipment handling
  • Conduct safety and hazards assessments
  • Stay up-to-date on environmental legislation and regulations
  • Participate in environmental assessments and resource development
  • Generate and administer contracts
  • Maintain compliance with environmental legislation and regulations
  • Evaluate and monitor reclamation projects, including site preparation, remediation, sampling protocols, and results

Work Environment

Reclamation specialists work in a variety of locations, including:

In the office:

  • Preparing paperwork and reports and analyzing data
  • 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
  • Synthesizing information to conduct ecological and environmental impact studies

In the field:

  • Touring and inspecting sites, including pre-and post-construction
  • Collecting samples and recording data and observations
  • Contributing to restoration and rehabilitation efforts
  • Supervising contractors, subcontractors, and field personnel

Where to Work

There 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


Search for jobs on the ECO Canada job board.

Education and Skills

If you are a high school student considering a career as a reclamation specialist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • English

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a reclamation specialist is a university undergraduate degree. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a reclamation specialist, the following programs are most applicable:

  • Environmental Science
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Earth Sciences
  • Soil Science
  • Agriculture
  • Hydrogeology
  • Forestry
  • Geography
  • Biology
  • Chemistry

There is no certification specific to reclamation specialists, though many reclamation specialists choose to be certified as professional Engineers, Geoscientists, Biologists, Agrologists, Technicians, or Environmental Practitioners. Our Environmental Professional (EP) certification may also be valuable.

Skills

Hard/ Technical Skills (skills obtained through formal education and training programs)

  • Technical writing
  • Risk assessment
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Environmental consulting

Soft Skills (personal attributes and characteristics)

  • Ability to work independently and in a team setting
  • Written and oral communication
  • The ability to adhere to deadlines
  • Physical agility

Environmental employers look for professionals who can combine technical knowledge with soft skills. Watch at our free webinar “Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry” or take our Essential Skills courses.

Education and Skills

Cameron Faminow

Cameron Faminow cites the combination of his ranching and farming background with his experience in the oil and gas industry as the main reason he is an effective environmental consultant. “People in this industry use jargon, which can be quite confusing and confounding.” Due to his combined experience, Cameron doesn’t have any problems translating this jargon. Today, he is the president and senior environmental planner of his own environmental consulting company.

Spending much of his time on reclamation projects, Cameron works both before and after a development project is complete. “The term ‘reclamation’ is similar to the term ‘environment’ in that it encompasses so many components…there are very few activities in any industry that do not have a reclamation component.” Prior to a development project, he does “front end” work, such as gathering the baseline data that will facilitate the return of the site to its preconstruction condition. “Ultimately, facilities will be abandoned, so the more we know prior to construction, the better we can reclaim the site,” he explains. Cameron’s “back end” work involves investigating sites that may still have reclamation issues.

Through literature searches and field investigations, Cameron determines what the land was used for and what pollutants may still remain at the site. After reclamation, the sites “should have the same agricultural or environmental capability as they did prior to development.” One of the highlights of Cameron’s work is the number of opportunities currently available to him. “Right now, there’s no shortage of work in all facets of the environmental industry, particularly in the reclamation sector.” He also enjoys the dynamic nature of his job, and the fact that a reclamation specialist’s role is “to create a win-win-win scenario, where industry, the environment, and landowners all win.”

Reclamation is an important process both for wildlife and humans alike; the process of deforestation is an example. When forests are cut down, whether to clear land or harvest more resources, it can be easy to forget that this has lasting environmental effects.

For wildlife, deforestation displaces species and may force them into new ecosystems that are not well-equipped to sustain additional wildlife. In the long run, this can create species and resource imbalance and can drastically deplete the population sizes of various species.

For humans, the process of reclamation supports conservation efforts to reverse the effects of deforestation. Reclamation allows us to efficiently use the same land in multiple ways, rather than disrupting new sites.

Some projects are more permanent (new housing communities and malls), others are less so (resource extraction). When these temporary projects have been completed inactive sites shouldn’t be left as is without any intention to use them again.

The research, data collection, and extensive planning or reclamation specialists mean they know which sites can be reclaimed in the future before they are disrupted. Other sites that haven’t been planned as thoroughly pose more of a challenge to reclaim. Reclamation specialists carry out extensive field investigations to determine exactly what the land was used for, what pollutants may still be lingering, and the probability of success with reclaiming that site.

Being a reclamation specialist is a very dynamic occupation. As the environment grows, there will be an increasing need for reclamation specialists.

Your Impact

Reclamation specialists work to reclaim disturbed land that has been affected by natural erosion, mining, oil and gas activities, urban development, and many other natural and human processes. You also provide direction to clients to ensure compliance with federal and provincial environmental regulations.

The use of resources such as coal and oil and gas is still very prevalent in Canada. Although we’re introducing more renewable sources, coal, oil and gas are still very much involved in our everyday.

Reclamation specialists are very aware of this reality. They support the industries that require specific facilities for natural resource extraction and development and ensure that current and future operations do not have lasting and irreversible effects on the environment.

Reclamation specialists use science and technology to consult and make informed decisions. In this role, you incorporate reclamation policies and practices to reclaim land and restore it back to a usable state, all while working in accordance with environmental regulations and legislation. The goal of reclamation specialists is to ensure that sites hold the same, or similar, agricultural, and environmental capability as they did prior to any development.

The role of a reclamation specialist is an emerging occupation in Canada. It’s similar to the duties of conservation biologists, remediation specialists and environmental scientists.

Occupational Classification

Individuals employed as reclamation specialists may be classified in one or more of the following occupational groupings:

NOC Code: 2131- Civil Engineers

NOC Code: 2263- Inspectors in Public and Environmental Health and Occupational Health and Safety

What is a NOC Code?

The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data, describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

The NOC is developed and updated in partnership with Statistics Canada to coincide with the 5- year census cycles. It is based on in-depth occupational research and consultations conducted across Canada, to reflect changes in the Canadian labour market

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

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