Improving regional scale outcomes by…
1. Improving processes and outcomes for First Nations communities involved in mine closure
Challenge: Processes and outcomes for First Nations communities involved in mine closure need to be improved to reduce negative impacts and deliver benefits.
Response: This initiative will develop a strategic assessment of the key issues that have inhibited decision making involvement of First Nations people in the mine closure processes and which are likely to be barriers into the future. The initiative will include strengthening Indigenous engagement as well as consideration of agreements between mining companies and First Nation communities, participation of Indigenous enterprises in supply chains, capacity issues and how Indigenous groups can contribute to the research agenda across the full spectrum of CRC TiME activities.
2. Implementing cumulative regional impact assessment for mine relinquishment
The Challenge: The impacts of mine closure are currently assessed separately for each mine and there is no system in place for predicting, assessing and managing cumulative impacts associated with mine closure.
Response: This initiative will focus on developing and implementing methods and tools for the prediction and assessment of cumulative impacts with a strong focus on engagement with Indigenous communities and other key groups. It will demonstrate the implementation of a regional cumulative impact assessment framework for mine closure through case studies, showcasing links to regional planning and decision making.
3. Regions in Transition – economic assessment and strategic foresighting to position communities for just transitions
The challenge: Currently there is no co-ordinated process to guide post-mining social and economic transition including the re-purposing of mine sites in order to achieve positive economic, social and environmental outcomes on a regional scale.
Response: This initiative focuses on working with communities, mining companies and other stakeholders at a regional scale across Australia as they prepare for the closure of mines and plan for viable repurposing of mined land. It will include dialogue and governance processes to enable the necessary conversations to support transition. It will also include tools and processes supported by robust economic assessment to help regions navigate a pathway to a post-mining economy.
Enhancing certainty by…
4. Producing guidance to inform national mine closure decision making
The challenge: Regulation and policy for mine closure is driven by the States/Territories and applied on a site by site basis. Regulatory frameworks vary in their requirements, guidance provided and the consistency of their application, while companies often work across multiple jurisdictions.
Response: The formation of CRC TiME presents an opportunity for the development of national guidelines and standards for mine closure, mirroring the National Remediation Framework and the role of CRC CARE. This initiative provides an opportunity for government and industry from multiple jurisdictions to begin work on a framework and prioritisation of shared guidance development for the assessment and management of mine closure.
5. Supporting policy innovation for relinquishment
The challenge: The multiplicity of policy frameworks and regulations at different levels are complex, inconsistent and in some cases inhibit the delivery of positive post-mining outcomes for regions.
Response: This initiative will engage CRC partners on regulatory effectiveness and identify impediments to effective closure. The initiative will develop a roadmap for removing regulatory constraints (including uncertainties and ambiguities) that are currently preventing transition to successful relinquishment. The project will identify opportunities for broader reform to enable transitions.
Building confidence through…
6. Residual risk trade-offs and transfer models
The challenge: The ways that risks are calculated using existing methods and discount rates lead to incomplete assessment of residual risk. This results in reduced confidence and in some cases unforeseen closure costs that complicate the relinquishment of mines.
Response: This initiative will develop non-market-based valuations and measurement frameworks in addition to natural capital accounting systems and how these can be applied in the context of mine closure. The initiative will consider how these frameworks can be included in decision-making processes and recommend ways that they can be improved.
7. Valuing intangibles and building investor confidence (in long term outcomes)
The challenge: Difficulty in identifying and quantifying ‘intangible’ factors is a crucial issue undermining decision making and confidence due to insufficient factors being considered.
Response: This initiative will improve recognition of uncertainty within the valuation methodology used to evaluate projects and notably non-technical risks (particularly social aspects) related to mining. Non-technical risks include country or sovereign risks and social risks, often linked to ‘social licence’. This initiative will develop ways to incorporate these into risk calculations.
8. Calculating risks and costs over long time frames
The challenge: The current assessment of risks and costs over elongated timeframes leads to suboptimal decisions due to discount rates used in the calculation of net present value.
Response: This initiative will draw on case studies of different mining operations and develop an approach that addresses metrics for risk calculation such as Net Present Value and Free Cash Flow. It will suggest how the risks and costs are assessed as inputs, adjusted through processing and interpreted in the calculation of various decision metrics.
Creating value by…
9. Unlocking growth opportunities for Australia’s mine closure METS futures
The challenge: Achieving mine closure and addressing the large number of legacy mines in Australia requires closure solutions that bring together distinct skills and capabilities. Australia’s mining equipment, technology and services (METS) industry is critical to these solutions.
Response: Emerging METS solutions can be integrated and deployed as interventions in existing and legacy operations to reduce environmental, social and financial impacts related to closure. With careful consideration and planning, some of these interventions may be deployed in a way that improves commercial outcomes of mining operations and creates growth opportunities for the Australian METS industry.
10. Innovation for value generation through waste and mining assets
The challenge: Large volumes of solid wastes and wastewater generated in mining present environmental, safety and social issues affecting mining regions and potentially affecting post-mining land uses. Some wastes contain materials that could be extracted and support economic development for regions in transition.
Response: A circular economy approach to characterisation, reprocessing and utilisation of wastes can lead to a step-change in managing waste volumes and identifying potential new industries that can be part of a transition, in some cases commencing prior to mine closure. This initiative would involve innovative technologies such as algal biotechnology to enable multiple bio-based supply chains and provide nutrients (e.g. for use as plant fertilisers) while sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
New technology for…
11. Improved prediction, remediation and closure of Acid and Neutral Metalliferous Drainage (AMD/NMD) sites
The challenge: Acid mine drainage and acid rock drainage due to oxidation of mine wastes can damage waterways and impact future land uses. Improvements to the standard international assessment methods are needed to predict and remediate incidences of AMD to support mine closure.
Response: Building on existing research, an expanded focus on source AMD definition and control can influence early changes to process flowsheet planning and the potential to reduce residual risk through process design. Improvements to management of AMD will utilise both mineralogy and microbiology for assessment and remediation of the undersaturated mine waste zone through examination of the behaviour of mine wastes at a range of scales, leading to improved guidelines and on-site field trials.
12. Seed scaling to meet Australia’s forecast rehabilitation demand
The challenge: Rehabilitation of mine sites requires a large volume of seeds to re-establish appropriate vegetation cover. Failures in current seed-based rehabilitation lead to underperformance and loss of expensive seeds, exacerbated by a changing climate.
Response: This initiative involves treating and sowing diverse seed mixes using precision-seeding machinery to increase rehabilitation success rates. It also involves measuring the effectiveness of seed sourcing processes adapted for a changing climate with a focus on adjusting provenancing strategies to improve revegetation success. The initiative will establish field trial applications serving as demonstration sites enabling wider uptake of findings. The project will actively foster connections with other research projects seeking to understand community (particularly Indigenous) values regarding seed sourcing strategies.
13. National mine pit lake water assessment and management
Challenge: The multitude of mine pits in Australia, including many legacy sites from abandoned mines, pose risks following mine closure. They also present significant potential for beneficial re-use. Currently, the risks and opportunities of pit-lakes are ill-defined.
Response: This initiative will develop guidance that supports pit lake management and enable beneficial uses where possible. Characterisation and modelling strategies will be developed to quantify and optimise management options both for generic conceptualisations of pit lakes, but also for specific and regional pit lake assessments. Using a diverse set of targeted case studies, this initiative will provide an evidence base to support the screening of future options for pit-lakes.
14. Ecosystem forecasting and environmental accounting
The challenge: Mining companies and governments maintain large and complex data sets that, in principle, could help forecast ecosystem resilience and enable environmental accounting. However effective ecosystem forecasting and environmental accounting are constrained by the disconnected and disaggregated nature of these data sets.
Response: This initiative will develop and implement platforms to enable the demonstration of innovative technologies and solutions, and the aggregation and interrogation of the mine site and related data to predict and forecast ecosystem outcomes. In addition, the initiative will focus on providing the necessary access to data and integration processes to support environmental-economic accounting through case studies and trial applications to support wider learning.
Enabling skills development by…
15. Building capacity and workforce for the future
The challenge: The ability to achieve post-mining transitions is constrained by limited training and education opportunities with only a small number of capacity building options focused on mine closure.
Response: Education and training is a pathway for achieving change and extending the legacy of CRC TiME. This initiative will comprise multiple components across a spectrum of capacity building activities. This will include building on the range of formal education courses and updating these with findings from CRC TiME research. In addition, the initiative will identify and address gaps specifically relating to closure and transition with a view towards a stackable set of courses that can comprise a new Masters Program of Mine Closure to be delivered across CRC TiME partner institutions.