Environmental management for mine sites

We are using our multidisciplinary expertise in environmental monitoring and management to minimise impacts from mining; developing new technologies and approaches for mine remediation and rehabilitation and filling knowledge gaps to ensure a sustainable positive legacy for the industry and surrounding communities.

The Challenge

Minimising environmental impact at mine sites

Our solutions are ensuring safer mine tailings management.

Mining remains embedded in Australia's continuing economic prosperity, contributing half the nation's export income and nearly $1 trillion planned investment in resource sector industries.

Impacts from waste materials of mining can often have detrimental environmental consequences if left unmanaged.

The environmental risks mining presents to land, water, biodiversity and people can be difficult to foresee but have the potential to last long after the mine has closed.

The loss of valuable water and land assets affected by mining are highly significant to local communities and for long term sustainability.

To address these issues, the mining industry is heavily regulated. Costs to comply with environmental regulation cost the industry around A$1.5 billion per year.

Regulatory requirements are frequently updated, with conditions and monitoring becoming more sophisticated.

However significant knowledge gaps exists, in measurement or management options, creating uncertainty, promoting conservative decisions and conferring significant expense to society, industry and government.

Our Response

Navigating minesite rehabilitation

We bring together knowledge from hydrologists, environmental chemists, geochemists, ecotoxicologists, and biologists to address these environmental challenges.

We are working on technological solutions for monitoring environmental health, through our advanced sensor research, including in-the-field contaminant monitoring.

We undertake risk assessments to lower environmental impacts of mining wastewater.

We are undertaking benchmark analysis to track environmental change, analysing solids, sediments, waters, aerosols, and particulates from minesites.

Our environmental modelling capability, coupled with these data, is allowing us to undertake toxicity assessment and model environmental impacts under different conditions.

We are developing biotechnology and geochemistry solutions for waste and water engineering and remediation. These include bioremediation options for acid mine drainage and new flocculation options for tailings management.

We also undertake risk assessments to inform long-term environmental decision making and develop tools for assessing the vulnerability of mine sites to changing climatic conditions and weather, enabling proactive water management and hazard identification and mine closure.

Case studies

  • Copiapó River Basin water management

    We teamed up with AusAID and the Chilean water authority Dirección General de Aguas, to analyse the shortfalls in water rights, industrial usage and social requirements in the Copiapó River Basin, Chile

  • Ranger Mine: underpinning a safe closure plan

    We undertook a scientific evaluation of the potential long-term impacts from tailings wastes produced at the Ranger Uranium Mine, investigating whether the closure plan for a tailings repository was environmentally sound and aligned with regulatory conditions for approval.

  • Cleaning up contaminated mining wastewater

    We developed a new cost-effective technology to treat mining wastewater and reduce sludge by up to 90 per cent. The technology is called Virtual Curtain.


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