An Australian-first project has lured scientists to Perth from across the globe to work with resources companies on restoring huge tracts of WA land left barren after mining is done. The $6.7 million new centre at Curtin University is led by botanist Kingsley Dixon, former director of science at Kings Park and 2016 WA Scientist of the Year.
He said while Australia had strict approvals processes and mine regulation, the end of a mine’s life was far less scrutinised. “A report by the Australia Institute in March showed Australia had 60,000 abandoned mines where the miner has walked away because it’s too hard to patch the hole, put back the veg,” he said.
“Now a federal inquiry happening into how we got this so wrong. “And in this state the scale of the problem is colossal. There are few other mining activities in the world on this scale.”
One company mining iron ore in the Pilbara had a footprint of 1200 square kilometres to be rehabilitated – the equivalent of a one-kilometre strip beside Great Northern Highway from Perth to Newman, Professor Dixon said.
While some of the abandoned pits were ‘legacy’ holes, predating regulation, many existed because companies struggled to understand even basic technology to repair a damaged landscape – despite a desire to be good environmental stewards.
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