PERTH (miningweekly.com) – New research by Monash University has identified more than 80 000 inactive and unused mine sites, which could have the potential to be transformed into valuable assets.
The University on Friday said that the abandoned mines pose extreme environmental, public health and safety risks. However, with some ingenuity and investment, these sites could be transformed into assets, promoting everything from archaeological heritage conservation and tourism, to unique habitats for biodiversity enhancement.
Associate Professor of Resources Engineering at Monash University, Mohan Yellishetty, and his international research team have created an Australian-first geospatial database of all known active and inactive hard rock mine sites across the country.
Researchers identified, classified and geo-referenced more than 95 000 active and inactive mine sites across Australia, with more than 80 000 of these are currently inactive. Of the inactive mines, 68% are classified as neglected, while just 4% were noted as rehabilitated.
Yellishetty said that there were more than 26 000 inactive mines in New South Wales, with a further 20 303 in Western Australia and 18 171 in Victoria.
The study identified that roughly 82% of Australia’s mine sites may require rehabilitation, which could present enormous economic, social and environmental challenge moving forward.
“While the mining industry has undoubtedly made significant contributions to the Australian economy over time, at least 80 000 sites remain inactive and pose significant long-term public health risks,” Yellishetty said.
“Efforts to ensure progressive rehabilitation throughout the life of mining operations are critical for Australia to achieve its goal of being a world leader in environmental stewardship and mineral resource governance.”
The inactive mine sites offered rehabilitation opportunities including construction work, recreational or tourism potential, carbon farming, waste sites and in renewable energy generation.
Yellishetty said that the insights enabled by this national-level spatial database enabled the development of coordinated responses that extend beyond state borders.
“Our classification and methodology are easily transferable, and can be used to categorise active and inactive mine sites worldwide,” he added.