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After the mining, what’s next? Overseas mine rehabilitation offers lessons for Australia

The ABC’s Gregg Borschmann reports (4.5.17) on the issue of environmental rehabilitation after mine closures, suggesting that overseas approaches may provide lessons for Australian legislators looking to better regulate mine site clean-ups.

‘In Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, the Hazelwood brown coal mine is closed. In the NT, the Ranger uranium mine is due to shut down in four years’ time. They’re very different mines, but with the same problem: what to do with the landscape once the mining stops.

‘From Australia to the Americas, from Europe to South Africa, there are plenty of lessons to be learned. One of the best examples of restoring a post-mining landscape comes from Europe, where uranium mining by the once feared and secret Wismut company had created an environmental tragedy.

‘… Australia is also grappling with a host of environmental problems from old open pit uranium mines. Rum Jungle in the Northern Territory and Mary Kathleen in Queensland both still require hundreds of millions of dollars of additional rehabilitation work, decades after closure.

‘And Australia has four uranium mines still producing yellowcake, about 30 operating iron ore mines, 40 working copper mines, 40 gold mines, 10 lead-zinc mines, around eight nickel mines and 100 productive coal mines. Gavin Mudd, an associate professor of environmental engineering at RMIT, says Australia is getting better at managing post-mining landscapes — “but we’ve still got a long way to go”.’

Queensland mine rehabilitation should be progressive, not left as one big job

The ABC’s Louisa Rebgetz reports (19.5.17) on how the Palaszczuk government intends to improve the record of mining companies cleaning up exhausted mine sites.

‘Environmental groups are urging the Queensland Government not to be “bullied” by the resources industry in a bid to fix a $10-billion legacy of mine rehabilitation.

‘It comes as the State Government is on a hard sell to tighten the demands on miners to ensure financial assurance and progressive rehabilitation with a discussion paper out until mid-June. Campaigner with Lock the Gate Alliance, Rick Humphries, said the reforms were “long overdue” but the “devil will be in the detail”.

‘… “This program of reforms is all about making sure rehabilitation happens progressively so it is not left as one big job for the end of the mine’s life, and also ensuring that we have sufficient financial assurance every time one of those mines has been abandoned,” [Environment Minister] Mr Miles said.

‘Mr Miles said he hoped it would also create jobs for regions currently struggling through the mining downturn.’

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