Ecological restoration and enhancement at a surface coal mine, Scotland

Naturalised water treatment lagoon

Naturalised water treatment lagoon


Adam Fitchet

Adam Fitchet

Managing Consultant
T: +44 7876 594451
M: +44 7876 594451

Services we provided

Through a more than 20-year collaboration, Ramboll has facilitated the restoration of habitats and created ecological enhancements at the Greenburn Surface Mine in East Ayrshire, Scotland. 

Effective stakeholder communication has been at the core of the project’s success, creating a site that has benefited biodiversity and the community. 

Ramboll has provided ecological services since 1998. When this collaboration began, the 227-hectare site comprised habitats of low biodiversity value, with most of the area dominated by heavily grazed agricultural grasslands and remnant patches of peatland. These habitat areas were removed to develop the mine site.

Ramboll prepared a conservation management plan (CMP) that set out protocols for mitigation during and after mining and the restoration of grassland and peatland habitats.

Over subsequent years Ramboll has updated the CMP, applying adaptive management to ensure restoration targets for the site could be met. 

Effective biodiversity action and long-term monitoring oversight by Ramboll ecologists has resulted in Greenburn now supporting a diverse range of habitats and species, with some key ecological successes on site. 

Successes include an enhanced restoration area with an artificial badger sett, a large seasonal wetland supporting a variety of bird species including species new to the area, the creation of rich bird nesting habitat, and enhanced bat roosting and foraging habitats.  

Stakeholder engagement

Effective working relationships with statutory and non-statutory stakeholders are key to achieving sustainable biodiversity improvements. 

The biodiversity actions and enhancement plans for Greenburn were developed in collaboration with statutory bodies such as NatureScot, SEPA, East Ayrshire Council and the Nith District Salmon Fishery Board. 

These stakeholders shared Ramboll’s ambition for the site to support a wider range of biodiversity than it did prior to mining operations. Through convening a technical support group comprising statutory and non-statutory stakeholders, the site has been able to achieve biodiversity gains that benefit all parties, and most especially nature itself. 

The sensitive conditions at the mine site were also of interest to the local community. An opportunity to provide education on the natural world to local schoolchildren was realised at an early stage. This involved the children drawing designs for the enhanced restoration area which now includes a water feature and rock wall, alongside many ecological improvements that far exceed the restoration planning requirements.

Habitat management 

The project involved establishing an ecological baseline prior to mining operations, in addition to assessing the effects of the development on the peat present on site from soil resource and carbon flux perspectives. 

In collaboration with key stakeholders, Ramboll used these assessments to inform the CMP, ensuring the progressive restoration protocols for the grassland and peatland habitats could meet with planning requirements and deliver on site aspirations. 

As an evolving document, the CMP was regularly updated to incorporate new ecological and management initiatives. 

Ramboll’s role has also included the implementation of mitigation measures, ecological surveys, obtaining protected species licences and implementing works under those licences. Furthermore, we have overseen on-site habitat creation and enhancement, ensuring that site outcomes are maximised to support a wide range of species.

Biodiversity wins

The continued monitoring and reporting of the restoration process, combined with the completion of regular environmental mitigation audits, has allowed measurement of the success of ecological gains on site. 

Key biodiversity wins achieved at Greenburn include: 

  • The restored and created habitats are more ecologically valuable than those present before mining operations.
  • The restoration/reinstatement of watercourses now supports greater biodiversity. In particular, the condition of the River Nith and its tributary burns is now extremely high supporting salmon and other fish species where previously there were none.
  • The creation of the seasonal wetland has attracted new bird species to the area, including a notable record of a snow goose, and an abundance of breeding lowland wading birds.
  • The snow goose is a new visitor to the region and was found among many other migratory species including greylag and pink footed geese.
  • The provision of nesting locations for barn owls through the replacement of barn owl boxes to replace nesting locations lost to mining has had high success rates, with up to ten breeding pairs now on or using the site.
  • The creation of an enhanced restoration area, which encompasses inputs from local school children, supports wildflowers for pollinators, a host of bird species and an artificial badger sett.
  • Restoring the diversity of habitats across the site has created abundant roosting opportunities for bats, and the area now supports seven of Scotland’s nine bat species.

The project has won Green Apple Awards including a silver level in 2013 for conservation work to protect wildlife and enhance restoration. This included the successful relocation of bats, badgers and barn owls and the increased numbers of meadow pipit and skylark as a result of diverse habitat creation.

Sustainable Development Goals addressed

4 Quality education
12 Responsible consumption and production
15 Life on land

Project team

Adam Fitchet, Maeve Fryday, Nadine Little


4245 North Fairfax Drive
Suite 700
Arlington, VA 22203
Tel:+1 703 516 2300
Fax:+1 703 516 2345

Company registration

Company registration

Ramboll USA, Inc.

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