Rehabilitating the land

Dr David Laurence: "There are a number of factors involved in converting a hole in the ground into something useful.  If it’s a quarry, for example, close to a major population centre, there’s a great opportunity to use it as landfill, or for water storage if it has the right profile.  Some of these holes in the ground though are in very remote areas and there is, I guess there is no economic or any sustainability reason to backfill those holes.  If the industry was required to backfill every hole there would be some interesting changes in the economics of mines.  Some mines wouldn’t go ahead.  Having said that, there are some mining methods such as strip mining of coal in Hunter Valley where backfilling is part of the mining method.  So it makes sense to pick up your overburden, put it in the hole you’ve already made and continue in a strip fashion.  There are some excellent examples of rehabilitated mines in the New England region just north of the Hunter Valley where there was sapphire mining in the 80s and the 90s.  I defy anyone now to go back there and show point the finger and say there was mining there.  Because again there was a strip mining operation, good soil, backfill, topsoil on top, pastures or forest rehabilitation.  So it can be done but it can, it depends on the mining method.  The ore body, whether it’s a flap or a very deep one, and its location, the amount of rainfall.  So a lot of factors involved."

Categories: Coal in Australia, Environment & Climate, Sustainable Mining
Author: Dr David Laurence
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