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Student Journal - The Southern Queensland Student Chapter at The Life of Mine Conference 2023

Henry Hall Media Officer and Second Year Representative, Southern QLD Student Chapter
· 800 words, 3 min read

I’m grateful for the support provided by AusIMM and BHP in enabling me to attend the 2023 Life of Mine Conference held from the 2nd to the 4th of August in Brisbane.

After completing summer vacation work as an Undergraduate Planning Engineer at Cannington mine I was enthusiastic to engage with and explore all aspects of the mining life cycle and how “to mine with the end in mind”.

One of the standout presentations was "Experience of Traditional Owners Through the Argyle Mine Closure" delivered by Kia Dowell. This session delved into the intricate balance between mining operations and respecting the rights and traditions of indigenous communities. The frank yet critical talk underscored the significance of fostering strong relationships and understanding between mining companies and traditional owners, ensuring that both parties' voices are heard and respected throughout the mining lifecycle.

Another highlight was "Cobalt, Copper, Tailings, and the Circular Economy". This talk delved into the innovative strategies being implemented to harness valuable minerals while promoting sustainable practices that align with the principles of the circular economy at 29 Metal’s Gunpowder operation. The exploration of tailings management and the potential for reusing and recycling resources was particularly enlightening, especially considering the broad range of viable opportunities across Australia.

Since starting my mining journey I’ve always held a keen interest in the opportunities afforded to a community after the closure of a mining operation. Post-mining land use is a vital commitment in the social contract between a mining company and its local community. Beyond resource extraction, repurposing mined areas demonstrates responsible stewardship, minimizing environmental impact. Transforming former mine sites into productive spaces, such as parks, agriculture, or renewable energy projects, fosters sustainable development and enhances community well-being contributing to a region's long-term prosperity.

The discussions on post-mining land use, especially "Selecting a Post Mining Land-use (PMLU)" and "PMLU in Victoria's Latrobe Valley," provided a deep dive into these challenges and opportunities that arise once a mine's operational life concludes. It was evident that strategic planning, extensive community engagement, and a long-term vision are critical to ensuring that former mining sites transition smoothly into their next phase, whether it be for ecological, agricultural, or even recreational purposes.

Lastly, the session on "Maximising In-Pit Coal Tailings Disposal in Queensland" presented an intricate look into strategies to optimise coal tailings management, emphasizing the importance of environmental conservation even in the most challenging conditions. While the footprint of 3,700ha used for coal out of pit TSFs is only a small percentage of Queensland’s area, shared tailings disposal presents a range of benefits in addition to clear environmental advantages. With no to limited regulatory barriers, shared tailings disposal sees less engineered structures requiring ongoing maintenance which in turn reduces the environmental liability adopted by a company when engaging in disposal. In addition, source mines would see a decreased estimated rehabilitation cost whereas the receiving would see a steady alternative revenue stream. Collaboration among mining entities enhances tailings management efficiency, reduces space constraints, and promotes resourceful reclamation. As a resident of Queensland and a future professional in the resources sector I’m incredibly excited to see what comes of this. The Queensland resources sector has an amazing opportunity to lead a landmark environmental stewardship initiative once again.

Overall, the Life of Mine Conference was an enriching experience, offering a holistic view of the mining sector's present and future. The commitment of industry to sustainability, community engagement, and innovation was evident throughout the event, making me optimistic about the future of mining, giving me confidence that the resources sector is more than capable “to mine with the end in mind”.

AusIMM was pleased to partner with BHP to enable the attendance of some of the future talent in the resources sector.

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