Dumping mining waste for a good cause

Tuesday, 01 August, 2023

Dumping mining waste for a good cause

Tonnes of mining waste are being dumped at Flinders University’s College of Science and Engineering for a good cause. The university has started a new initiative focused on scaling up improved methods for acid mine drainage assessment and remediation, water and ecosystem decontamination, better use of natural microbial biodegrading and other methods to improve both mine site closures and mining’s impact on the landscape.

Sarah Harmer, Flinders University Professor, who is leading the five-year, $10 million project, said the lab-based research aims to put better remediation processes into practice.

The project is part of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Transformation in Mining Economics (TiME) research program, focusing on examining how climate, geochemistry, microbiology and other factors affect mine waste materials.

According to Harmer, the lab will handle tonnes of mine waste rock and tailing to find better ways for industry partners to assess and manage acid mine drainage for mine closure planning.

“We will look at improving acid-base testing, better waste disposal planning and neutralisation of acid mine waste to help restore environments for future uses.”

Managing acid and metalliferous drainage (AMD) costs up to $650 million a year and tens of billions for mining companies worldwide. In the past, when mining activities have ceased, poor quality water from the production of AMD may continue to damage the environment, human health and livelihoods for decades.

Senior executives from global resources company Newmont visited the Flinders lab during the tour of Australian mine sites.

Hugh Davies, Newmont Mining’s Director of Water Systems, said the detailed test work will help the company adopt best-practice guidance to improve prediction, remediation and closure of acid and neutral metalliferous drainage sites.

“Over the past year, we have identified various geological materials at mine sites in Australia and North America that we would like to learn more about through detailed geochemical characterisation,” Davies said.

Bulk samples were collected and sent to Flinders University, with the hope that over the next three years, the project will enable Newmont to test operational interventions to reduce the long-term post-closure risks to water, ecosystems and people, and deliver fit-for-purpose post-mining land use.

“Improved understanding of the environmental behaviour of these materials will be integrated into our mine rock stockpile design and closure planning processes,” Davies said.

Other partners in the project include Rio Tinto, FAME, Fortescue Metals, BHP, MMG Australia, Blue Minerals Consultancy and Teck Resources as well as Genome Research Facility, Okane, the Minerals Research Institute of WA, the SA Department for Energy and Mining, Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Mineral Resources Tasmania, The University of Queensland and University of Windsor.

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