After the mining, what’s next? Overseas mine rehabilitation offers lessons for Australia – by Gregg Borschmann (Australian Broadcasting Corporation – May 3, 2017)

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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 a environmental tragedy.

“It was military mining … a military operation to get the first uranium for the Soviet nuclear bomb,” says Gerhard Schmidt, a senior researcher with the Oeko Institute in Germany. “It was not very sustainable … they mined and milled the ore and put the wastes into large piles of more than 100 million tonnes, some of which are the largest in the world.”

There were about 25 mines — open cut and underground — in East Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union and communist rule in Eastern Europe, the full extent of the problem was revealed.

But the Germans decided to do things properly. They designed a 25-year, €8 billion program to clean up the mess and reinvent Wismut, providing jobs for tens of thousands of former mine workers.

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