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Student Journal - AusIMM's Life of Mine Conference

Riley Barker Student, AusIMM Southern Queensland Student Chapter
· 800 words, 3 min read

The era of critical minerals, ESG, and sustainable resource management has arrived, and it will shape the way that we approach mining and rehabilitation.

From 2-4 August, I was given the opportunity to attend the Life of Mine conference held by AusIMM and the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute’s CWiMI. The three-day conference was filled with many technical presentations from industry and academic speakers with a range of ideas and experiences.

As a student beginning my journey in the sector, this conference was an excellent source of career development. Being able to hear first-hand the role that the mining industry will have in the transition to a sustainable future was both fascinating and educational.

As the focus of the mining industry transitions from maximising economic value towards providing more ESG focused projects, the way that we innovate and design must maximise the resource.

An excellent example of a different approach taken to mine rehabilitation was 'Viable and feasible decarbonisation; Tent Mountain Coal Mine re-purposing for the clean energy economy' by Ben Saffron, Transaction Executive Advisor GHD. This presentation introduced the Tent Mountain project, which was purchased by Montem Resources in 2016 with the goal of restarting coal mining operations. However, after uncertainty regarding approvals, Montem decided to change the asset into a sustainable and socially accepted project with strong economic value. The final design settled on using the existing landscape to create a pumped hydro energy storage facility, an offsite green hydrogen electrolyser and an offsite wind farm.

What stood out to me during this presentation was Ben’s perspective that 'step one to finding value is enabling divergent and free thinking from a wide range of stakeholders and experts.' This highlighted a shared theme from the three days, that expanding a project to field opinions and ideas from a wide range of stakeholders assists in delivering more than just monetary value.

Life of Mine Group Photo.jpeg

Another exceptional presentation from the conference was 'Design and calibration of a climate resilient Type B (Adapted) sediment basin at the Dugald River Mine in the North-West Queensland Minerals Province', presented by Gemma Green, Environment Superintendent MMG Dugald River Mine. Gemma’s insightful presentation shed light on a critical aspect of mining operations as they seek environmental sustainability. She delved into the intricate details of designing and calibrating a sediment basin that could effectively capture, treat and later release water once it meets required Release Water Quality Limits.

What stood out was Gemma and MMG’s openness to discuss what went right, what did not, and how they have learnt from the experience. By detailing the entire process in a simple yet highly informative manner, I not only learnt about sediment basins but also methods to approach other problems which may one day arise in my career.

Overall, Life of Mine 2023 was a remarkable conference. Since beginning my career in the mining industry, I have always been interested in how it changes and adapts to the political climate. This conference demonstrated that the industry is committed to an ESG-friendly future with its own professionals paving the way through collaboration and participation.

I would like to personally thank AusIMM, the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute’s CWiMI and the major sponsor BHP for enabling me to attend this event.

Being part of events like Life of Mine can be a transformative experience for young industry professionals, offering a wealth of benefits that extend far beyond the presentations. These conferences serve as dynamic platforms for technical development, networking, and personal growth, making them an invaluable opportunity for anyone looking to make a mark in their field.

I highly recommend attending events like Life of Mine to young professionals and look forward to continuing my involvement with AusIMM into the future!

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