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

Tobias Massang Undergraduate Mining Engineer, BHP
· 800 words, 3 min read

From 2-4 August I was privileged with the opportunity to attend the Life of Mine conference held by AusIMM and the University of Queensland in Brisbane.

I owe a huge dept of gratitude to both BHP and AusIMM for enabling me and many of my fellow students at the AusIMM Southern Queensland Student Chapter to attend this conference.

This event not only extended my knowledge on first nation collaboration, post-closure strategies and mine decarbonisation, but also helped to accelerate my professional development by providing me with the opportunity to meet and network with many leaders in the resources sector.

Out of the many fascinating presentations given, one which I found particularly interesting was 'The Experience of Traditional Owners through the Argyle Mine Closure', the first keynote given by Kia Dowell from the ARC Training Centre for Healing Country and the chairperson of Gelganyem Limited. Having very limited exposure to the experience of indigenous communities which live around mines, let alone those which face the challenge of mine closure, I was very intrigued to hear such presentation. I was also particularly curious to understand what sort of dialogue, if any, was maintained between the community and mine owner; Rio Tinto through the closure process.

During the presentation, Kia explained that she was the leading member and main representative in negotiations between the Traditional Owners of the Barramundi Dreaming and the company. In this role, she propositioned a dialogue which was based on the three pillars of accountability, transparency and equity and proposed 8 management plans to Rio for the post-closure operations.

What I found particularly insightful was the goal to have a management structure which put those in the community on par with those in the mine’s operations team. What was proposed to achieve this was a change of corporate structure, which would see all mine managers shadowed by an equally senior representative from the indigenous community. While this would come with its own logistical challenges, I think such an approach could benefit both sides and break down any existing and future barriers between the community and the operation.

Another highlight from the conference was the final keynote presentation 'Mining – Critical to a Clean Energy Future', presented by Marghanita Johnson the CEO of the Australian Aluminium Council.

In this talk, Marghanita focussed on the role which low carbon aluminium will play in the transition to a net zero economy, alongside other critical minerals. I was quite surprised to learn how integral aluminium is for renewable energy generation, being the primary material used for mounting and supporting solar panels in farms and on roofs. Additional Aluminium is used extensively in on and off-shore wind turbines and is a prime component of transmission lines and substations.

Additionally aluminium is a sought after material for electric transport; commonly used in EV’s, electrical busses, trains and planes due to its light-weight and corrosion resistive properties. Alongside the presentation, the Australian Aluminium Council provided physical samples to the audience which included bauxite nodules, powder form alumina and solid aluminium all of which had been mined or produced in Australia. Having never seen bauxite and alumina in the flesh, it was an amazing experience to be able to feel and touch the materials physically.Life of Mine 2023 (258).jpg

Overall, being able to attend this year’s Life of Mine conference was an incredibly valuable experience for my career progression. The conference has both expanded my knowledge on mine closure, indigenous relations and mine decarbonisation while also providing me with valuable opportunities to network with many resource industry leaders. In this way I am incredibly grateful to both AusIMM and BHP for providing me the opportunity to attend, and look forward to experiencing further conferences throughout my undergraduate career.

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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