Machinery stranded in floodwaters at Cockatoo Coal's Baralaba mine west of Rockhampton, Queensland. (Image: Lyndon Mechielsen, Source: The Courier-Mail/Oresome Resources)

Machinery stranded in floodwaters at Cockatoo Coal's Baralaba mine west of Rockhampton, Queensland. (Image: Lyndon Mechielsen, Source: The Courier-Mail/Oresome Resources)

Exploring how the mining industry can adapt to climate change

Future climate variability and change is impacting on the Australian mining industry and communities in different ways. CSIRO is working with mining enterprises and communities to explore climate adaptation strategies through the CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship, in association with both the Coal Portfolio and the CSIRO Minerals Down Under Flagship.

  • 5 July 2011 | Updated 2 April 2014

Mining adaptation

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The minerals industry represents a substantial percentage of Australia's gross domestic product (GDP), contributing billions of dollars directly to Australia’s wealth, and directly and indirectly employing hundreds of thousands of people.

Climate variability and climate change are impacting on the mining industry in various ways across Australia. Projected climate changes may impact the operational costs for mines, for example, in the areas of health and safety for workers, sourcing staff and production processes.

Losses and closures in the mining sector can be broad-reaching. For example, the 2011 floods in Queensland’s coal mining district cost the state A$5.7 billion (to June 2011) and the industry faced prolonged water management challenges for several months after the events (Flood Commission Report 2012).  

Adaptation responses of mining companies and surrounding communities will have flow-on effects to one another. Developing smart adaptation options is critical to the future of the industry and its associated communities.

Engaging with industry stakeholders

CSIRO is working with industry experts and mining stakeholders to examine potential risks and opportunities arising from climate change.

Case studies

CSIRO is currently working with industry experts and mining stakeholders in a number of organisations and regions around Australia, to examine potential risks and opportunities that the future climate may present and explore potential strategies to adapt with no regrets.  

For example, in collaboration with CSIRO’s Coal Portfolio and supported by the Australian Coal Association Research Projects ACARP [external link] fund, we are working with a coal mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin to identify mine site vulnerability and adaptation options. For this we are analysing multiple criteria available from geographic and terrain data across the mine site.

A second case-study examined a climate change risk assessment conducted by the iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. This case study sought to understand the motivations, approach and challenges faced by the company in undertaking a climate adaptation study. The purpose of the study was to provide a concrete example for other mining companies to consider and learn from. See related report Learning from the Fortescue Metals Group Extreme Weather Events Risk Assessment project: case study report.

We are always looking for industry and community partners interested in exploring these issues further and encourage you to contact us about developing a case-study investigating.

Workshops

The project team is performing a series of workshop activities with mining industry stakeholders including industry, local and state government, infrastructure and utility providers, environmental groups, and community representatives.

  1. The first workshop (CSIRO Mining and Climate Adaptation QCAT Workshop 2009) took place in 2009, attended by mining and mine management experts.
  2. The second workshop in August 2010 was held in conjunction with the AusIMM Sustainable Mining 2010 conference. See workshop report Regional Climate Vulnerability Assessment: Goldfields-Esperance.
  3. The third workshop in July 2011 brought together a broad array of resource industry stakeholders from The Pilbara, Western Australia to understand the potential impacts of future climate variability and change on them. See workshop report Assessing the impact of climate variability and change on mining in the Pilbara: workshop report.
  4. A fourth workshop, which was also multi-stakeholder based and funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) led by the Centre for Social Responsibly in Mining at the University of Queensland, in collaboration with CSIRO. See project report Extractive resource development in a changing climate: learning the lessons from extreme weather events in Queensland, Australia [external link].

These workshops:

  • explore the issues and potential implications of climate variability and change in mineral rich regions
  • identify areas of vulnerability and the capacity of mining companies and communities to adapt to change together
  • identify case study operations and communities for in depth analysis.

Other workshops are planned for other Australian mining regions to explore the implications of climate variability and change for different commodities and mining processes.

Survey to assess mining adaptation

In conjunction with regional workshops, a broad survey of mining industry and local government stakeholders responsible for planning for climate change was conducted between September 2010 and February 2011.

The survey results [pdf, 173 kb] identify organisational vulnerability to climate variability and climate change, past adaptation efforts to climate events, and current and future planned adaptation efforts.

A follow-up survey was conducted in 2013 with a larger sample size and extra questions exploring organisational priorities in more depth. [pdf, 440 kb]

In general, both surveys found that local government authorities in mining regions were much more concerned about climate change impacts on their operations than were mining companies. While 45 per cent of local government authorities in mining areas were undertaking climate adaptation activities, only around 15 per cent of mining companies were doing so.

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