- More details on the upcoming CRC TiME Forum
- Education – meet our new PhD candidates
- Project Development workshops
- Project Spotlight:
- Regional Hubs update
- Whose who on our Project Development Committees
- Updates from our Partners
From our CEO…The release of the 2021-2024 Research Prioritisation Plan in August brought together knowledge gained from over 3 years of consultation informing the formation of CRC TiME and progress made in the delivery of our Foundation Portfolio of projects. I am incredibly proud of this Plan that will underpin our core activity for the 2021-2024 period. It has identified a unique roadmap not only for CRC TiME research, but also framed a path for global innovation in mine closure and post mine transitions.
How will CRC TiME develop projects that are innovative and collaborative, deliver on the needs of our partners and create transformational change ? It all starts with an idea. Our idea submission process has opened and we are seeking ideas from across our 75 partners and key stakeholders to seed the development of our next portfolio of projects. We are supporting this with workshops that bring partners together around shared priorities or regions of interest – watch this space! Ideas will be curated through the CRC TiME project development pipeline and opportunities built for partners to join projects and contribute to their scoping and proposal development. Our goal is to create connections across our diverse partner base that will cross discipline, organisational and stakeholder boundaries.
Critical in this journey over the next 10 years will be our annual forum. While the current COVID-19 situation has moved this year’s forum to an online format, we are still moving forward with an agenda that will both share knowledge through plenary sessions and deliver workshops that create connections and frame and address current priorities.
Excitingly, our $4.9M portfolio of Foundation Projects have begun delivering their findings. With six project reports submitted for review, we are now working on sharing what we have learnt. These will be showcased at the annual forum and Project Reports and Fact Sheets will soon be available on our website as they are finalised. I am incredibly grateful to the effort of our Foundation Project Leaders, project teams and the partners who have contributed their time, knowledge and information.
Our project portfolio represents a truly unique perspective across the diverse themes, institutions and stakeholders that connect mine closure decision making with post mine transitions, creating a solid foundation for our partnership to drive transformative change.
We are really excited to commence our education and training program known as the HDR scheme (Higher Degree by Research) with the announcement of our first three scholarship recipients – Liz Wall, Ebony Cowan and Jake Eckersley.
Liz, Jake and Ebony will complete their PhDs on an industry-defined problem and be embedded within a CRC partner organisation during their studies. Their research will contribute to strategic research initiatives outlined in our Research Prioritisation Plan, enabling their research to contribute to real change in the industry, whilst creating opportunities to connect with thought leaders from across CRC TiME’s unique partner base.
Feeling inspired to complete your PhD with a CRC TiME HDR scholarship? Applications are now open for the next round of top-up scholarships until 10 December 2021.
Registrations opening soon
CRC TiME’s inaugural partners Annual Forum is in 8 short weeks. It’s all about Creating Connections between industry, researchers, regulators and communities. To facilitate this, we are building a diverse and interactive virtual program, and where possible, hosting in-person events to bookend the conference.
The partner only 2021 Forum will take place over three days on Monday 29 November to Wednesday 1 December and all partners have been emailed their registration link for their one complimentary ticket. Full registrations will be open in a couple of weeks so keep an eye on your inbox!
Preliminary Program information is available here.
The 14th International Mine Closure conference was held in August from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia with a geographically broad audience coming together online discussing a wide range of topics. It was clear there is plenty of innovation occurring around the world to generate value from the mine closure process.
CRC TiME Program Leader, Glen Corder, presented on ‘Operational Solutions for Transformational Change’ and CRC TiME Program Leader, Fiona Haslam-Mckenzie led a very engaging discussion following her presentation on ‘Preparing for Mine Re-Purposing: Challenges and Opportunities’. Our CEO, Guy Boggs also chaired a session on ‘Beneficial land use of mine sites and ecosystem restoration’.
The Project Development process is now in full swing with the release of the Research Prioritisation Plan outlining our priority research areas for the next three years and the Project Development Guidelines detailing how to submit an idea. Research Priorities workshops have been held with all our stakeholder groups to deepen understanding of the process and start to explore areas of interest.
A number of CRC TiME workshops have already been held with different stakeholder groups interested in collaborating on a range of potential research areas. Topics covered include:
- Long Term Water Quality Risks and Improved AMD Prediction, Remediation and Closure
- Climate Adaptive Rehabilitation
- Bio-based Technologies for sustainable post-mining futures
- Water Forecasting for Mine Closure
Workshops will be designed to target key priorities in the RPP and projects moving through the CRC TiME pipeline. They will bring together partners to frame the challenge and build collaborative projects. If you would like to join the CRC TiME partnership please register your interest with email@example.com.
Do you have an idea for a project?
This 12 month project is documenting the processes and trends in repurposing mine sites, identifying case studies of interest and identifying areas for better practice in this important part of the mine life cycle. Mines and their potential for re-use are an important issue economically, socially and environmentally, with a poor history of beneficial transitions.
Our recently submitted Preliminary Report focusses on documenting what we know from other research about alternative uses for these sites after mining operations have come to an end; how mines come to take on a second life across different parts of the world; how the barriers to their re-purposing are overcome; and, who are the stakeholders shaping the re-use of mines? In undertaking this work, the research team has been very much aware of the need to draw from insights from around the globe but consider first and foremost the range of applications and possibilities in Australia. To date, the project has found:
- Globally there are a significant number of instances where mines have been repurposed across a range of industries, including:
- Active tourism, including mine sites as places for physical activity and adventure tourism
- Recreation uses and hotel accommodation
- Office accommodation
- The processing of waste and other materials in bio-reactors
- Science precincts
- Energy generation
- Environmental assets, including wetlands
- While there is a considerable case study literature on the re-use of mine sites, to date, the issue has not been considered in a systematic fashion. Those resources that are available, including The International Council of Mining and Metals’ Good Practice Guide (ICMM 2019), provide valuable advice but it may be difficult to translate these insights into specific actions.
- For Australia, our current, piecemeal approach to the re-purposing of mines results in lost economic opportunities, and potentially profound impacts within individual regions.
- The available evidence suggests that each example of mine repurposing has been dealt with as a unique, ‘one off’ project, with consequent significant implementation costs.
- Some features of contemporary mining practice, including the periodic shut-down and re-opening of mines as resource prices vary, make it more difficult to plan for repurposing as the end of mine life is difficult to determine.
The project team is now working on 15 leading case studies from across Australia. Further insights will be provided as part of the Final Report for this project which is due for delivery in February 2022.
Project 2.2 Exploring Issues in Mine Closure Planning
This 6 month project aimed to investigate and understand the key closure planning issues that inhibit the realisation of mine closure plans. An extensive literature study was conducted and completed with inputs from the industrial stakeholders and regulatory bodies. Expert opinion was sought through interviews and questionnaires in order to validate the short list of significant mine closure planning issues and challenges found during the literature review. Three of the key issues identified were:
- There are issues such as long-term post-mining regulatory enforcement, management, and the uncertainties of social requirements for mine closure. These issues arise from the lack integration of inputs, processes, and knowledge base of key stakeholders which essentially serve as a feedback loop for converting lessons learnt through time and identifying actionable improvements to prevent future mine closure failures.
- Major regulatory problems include the primary agencies’ various regulatory foci, the absence of a consistent, clear, and unambiguous set of legislative criteria, and the lack of regulatory integration flexibility.
- Mine operators have significant knowledge gaps when it comes to assessing novel alternative land uses, an apparent lack of knowledge base to guide the development of clear, concise mine closure plans, and an inability to quantify the intangible (such as the costs of ‘what ifs’ or the consequences/lost opportunity of not assessing novel alternative land uses).
The Report suggests that future mine closure planning research should focus on developing an integrated knowledge-based framework for effective control and collaborative management of mine closure planning.
This nine month project reviewed issues related to water management in mine closure for open pit mines that extend below the natural water table and hence are dewatered to enable mining operations. As the focus was on issues that are specific to below-water-table open pit mines, most attention was on the impacts of dewatering on the regional groundwater system, the recovery of groundwater post-closure and the formation and evolution of pit lakes if mine pits are not backfilled. The Project Report, which is being finalised now, includes the following key findings:
- The area surrounding the mine pit that is subject to reduced groundwater levels will continue to increase after cessation of mine dewatering, before eventually decreasing. It is therefore possible that ecosystems not affected by drawdown during the mine’s operational life might still be affected after mine closure.
- Accurate prediction of water table drawdown after mine closure requires detailed information on the aquifer system surrounding the mine, including geological structures that might act as barriers to groundwater flow. Such information is required beyond the region that is directly impacted by water table drawdown during mine operations.
- The water quality of pit lakes will be largely determined by the rate and chemistry of groundwater flowing into the pit, runoff from the pit walls and lake catchment, the time required for the pit to fill and the evaporation rate. There is a need to better understand these water and solute fluxes.
- Understanding pit lake evaporation rates, lake stratification cycles and how groundwater and surface water inflows to the pit change over time, are essential for accurate prediction of the final pit lake water level, the time for the pit lake water level to stabilise, and the development of pit lake water quality.
- Rapidly filling mine pits with water can have advantages, immediately for pit lake water quality, and then by increased groundwater recharge and availability to groundwater-dependent ecosystems. Rapid pit filling by diversion of surface water into pits can be effective where pits occur in areas with low aquifer transmissivity. Managed aquifer recharge may have a role in rapid recovery of groundwater levels in areas with higher aquifer transmissivity.
There are around 60,000 abandoned mines in Australia and an unknown number of old abandoned workings and previously mined sites. Many of these are small, and some date back to the gold rushes of the 1800s. While abandoned and inactive mine sites are often viewed as a liability with a lasting legacy of environmental contamination and land degradation, there are examples of global initiatives and research in Australia to either repurpose these sites following a period of rehabilitation for various applications and/or reprocess waste or sub-grade materials to extract economic minerals, using new technological approaches.
Depending on the site characteristics and initiative, there can be opportunities to provide benefits to society (eg. providing employment opportunities and a new revenue stream to nearby towns that were formerly heavily reliant on the operating mine), to provide safe, recreational amenities and mining heritage parks (eg. hiking trails on rehabilitated landscapes), to serve as reservoirs, waste disposal facilities, or to generate renewable energy on-site, to list a few examples. The main aim of this project is, therefore, to facilitate the process of transitioning abandoned mine sites to sustainable post-mining futures. So as not to limit the scope of potential opportunities, a standardised approach to characterise mine sites nationally is being considered.
Surveying CRC TiME partners highlighted three dominant areas of interest with abandoned mines:
- Re-using and re-purposing abandoned mines for innovative and entrepreneurial opportunities or even simpler applications such as developing water storage facilities for agricultural purposes
- Developing the national database of abandoned mines for different applications (if it does not exist) and the harmonisation of abandoned mine characterisation, prioritisation, and risk assessment across the states to develop a unified national approach
- Identifying test and demonstration sites for newer and more environmentally friendly mining methods such as in-situ mining or in-mine recovery to extract rare elements, etc
The project team has also organised several meetings with government departments at all different States and Territories (except ACT), as the main end-user of this project. The meetings aimed at discussing the above-mentioned items extracted from the surveying and identifying the progress that each State and Territories has had regarding the characterization of abandoned mines and to understand their needs with respect to rehabilitation and re-purposing abandoned mines sites, and to assess interest levels with respect to developing a national database of abandoned mines in Australia, a guidebook of possible technical challenges and hazard assessment tools, and gap analysis for the harmonization of different states’ policies related to risk assessment.
The project team has also almost completed a comprehensive desktop study on the possible technical challenges associated with abandoned mines by using an integrated approach, which encompasses geological, geotechnical, and hydro-geochemical risks. The team has also conducted research on the currently available screening and evaluation tools used for the prioritisation and risk assessment and opportunity classification of abandoned mine sites. This includes international and national examples, and gap analysis to identify any limitations in the criteria or structure of available tools for classifying the risks and opportunities.
The research team is currently preparing the final report to summarise and document the findings of the research. This report contains recommendations and examples to develop a methodology for scoring and characterising abandoned mine sites for rehabilitation and re-purposing.
Five key regions across five different states and territories are establishing Regional Hubs this financial year:
- Pilbara, WA
- Latrobe, Victoria
- Bowen, Queensland
- South West, WA
- Gove, Northern Territory
Each region is unique – mines are at different stages of the mining cycle and produce different commodities, while stakeholders have diverse priorities and capacities to engage in regional transitions. We are developing secretariats, holding meetings and running workshops in all these locations. Pictured above is Program Leader, Glen Corder with Impact & Translation Lead, Emma Yuen at the Bowen Basin Regional Hub meeting in June 2021 with Peter Dowling (centred) from the Central Highlands Development Corporation. We have been fortunate in this time of travel restrictions, to have facilitated all hub meetings in person, so far, which is important at any stage but essential during establishment.
Researchers are keen to engage with our communities and the Regional Hubs provide the perfect vehicle for knowledge sharing and data collection. A number of our Project Leaders have provided updates on their foundational projects at hub meetings.
All the hubs have a common interest in proposing new local projects, through the project development process. They want to solve regional problems and for CRC TiME to deliver relevant local case studies. In order to facilitate this, each hub is being offered ‘ideas’ workshops running alongside regional hub meetings, to identify projects that align with our eight research priority areas as detailed in the Research Prioritisation Plan.
We are actively seeking indigenous partners and community groups around our Regional Hub areas. Join the growing number of stakeholders collaborating with us to find practical solutions to the multi-faceted issues surrounding mine closure.
If your organisation would like to become part of this globally significant effort to improve lives, communities, the environment and industry, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 08 9263 9805.
Whose who on our Project Development Committees
CRC TiME has established a robust advisory and approval structure that will ensure we build and invest in outstanding projects. You will likely be familiar with CRC TiME’s Board, which is made up of six college Directors and an independent Chair and has carriage of final approval decisions. While there are four committees of the Board, two are focussed on providing critical advice to the Board on the research program being developed and how this is positioned to optimise Impact. As well as membership derived from the Board, these committees include further leaders from across CRC TiME Partners:
- Impact Committee looks at the pathway to adoption and potential impacts of projects across end user groups in mining and post mine development:
- Terry Hill (Pilbara Development Commission)
- Piers Gillespie (SA Government)
- Jordy Bowman (Developing East Arnhem Land)
- Research Committee ensures research is aligned to the CRC TiME priorities with non CRC TiME members:
- Rae Mackay (Victoria Government/Federation University)
- Andrew Beer (UniSA)
- Mel Stutsel (Rio Tinto)
- Stephen Van Leeuwen (Curtin)
We are also establishing an Advisory Team for each Program and an Indigenous Advisory Team made up of key stakeholders who assist management in the design and review of projects as they move through the pipeline. The Indigenous Advisory Team to ensure the voice of first nations peoples are reflected in all our projects. These committees ensure we are responding to the needs of our partners and key stakeholders as well as providing a vehicle for management to share strategic planning with key stakeholder groups.
Updates from our Partners
Quarry Life Award with Hanson
Hanson has opened invitations for the fifth edition of Heidelberg Cement’s International Quarry Life Award; a community research and conservation competition, held in 62 quarries throughout 26 countries.
During 2021 and 2022, Hanson and Alex Fraser will be opening their quarries in Langwarrin and Wollert, and their Recycling Facility in Clarinda to six community or research groups selected to participate in this onsite biodiversity competition, for a prize of $7,500 AUD and the opportunity to compete for international prizes up to €30,000 (approx. $45,000 AUD).
New ARC Training Centre for Healing Country
Australia’s first Indigenous Chair for Biodiversity and Environmental Science Prof. Stephen van Leeuwen will lead a ground-breaking training centre that will drive a diversified Indigenous-led restoration economy. The Healing Country Centre will fuse Indigenous knowledge and traditional approaches with western science to rehabilitate and restore Country.
We welcome hearing and sharing updates from our partners. Contact Jane Stacey email@example.com with your news.
Queensland Announces Mine Rehabilitation Commissioner
Congratulations to James Purtill who has been appointed Queensland’s first-ever Mine Rehabilitation Commissioner, commencing in October 2021. The Rehabilitation Commissioner is an independent statutory position, which will be responsible for monitoring and reporting on rehabilitation performance and trends across Queensland.
We welcome hearing and sharing updates from our partners. Contact Jane Stacey firstname.lastname@example.org with your news.