Mine closures creating new regional opportunities
Experts from environmental, economic, and social science backgrounds are converging in Sydney this November at the International Mining and Resources Conference & Expo (IMARC) to discuss opportunities created by the rehabilitation and repurposing of out-of-use mine sites.
Due to necessary land disturbances, most mine sites cannot be returned to their natural state so we must look at how to repurpose them to create long-term economic opportunities and reduce the burden on the environment.
Dr Guy Boggs, CEO of CRC TiME says these sites can provide long-term benefits far beyond mine lifespans.
“Everybody is focused on energy transition at the moment and the need to decarbonise. There are some really novel projects happening, looking at old mine pits and turning them into pumped hydropower sites,” he says.
“The old Kidston gold mine west of Townsville is starting to produce electricity with pumped hydro and also incorporates a massive solar energy farm. The mines have strong electricity grids so you can make use of the infrastructure that was built during the mine.”
Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro project will produce 250-megawatts of renewable energy, providing enough electricity to power 143,000 homes while also 900 jobs in North Queensland.
CRC TiME says old mine sites across Australia are being used for a range of long-term projects that the public may not be aware of. These include environmental sanctuaries in WA’s Goldfields region, and scientific innovations such as an underground physics lab within the Stawell Gold Mine.
The rate of new mine closures in Australia is expected to increase in the near future as many mines come to the end of their operating life. On average, a mine is expected to operate between 10 and 30 years with the resources boom beginning 30 years ago.
IMARC speaker, Meg Kauthen, Sustainability Designer at Business for Development believes Australia is uniquely positioned to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the closure of mine sites.
Ms. Kauthen says “if we get infrastructure aligned to the community’s needs, it’s a fantastic investment beyond the life of the mine. We have been working in Africa where we have repurposed old mine infrastructure to help boost the agronomics of the region in partnership with the Cotton On Group.
“We suggest that Australian mines and mining communities need to approach the development of infrastructure in the same way.”
The economic opportunities presented to many regional communities facing mine closures will require a diversified workforce ranging from engineers, business and operations managers, accountants, hydrologists and beyond.
By diversifying the economic opportunities in regional Australia, it is hoped that more people will migrate from the capital cities help grow smaller communities.
This is just one of the many opportunities within the mining sector being explored at IMARC, where global leaders will meet with emerging innovators to collaborate on improving the future of the entire value chain across automation, communication, safety, and sustainability.