As approximately 240 mines in the country approach closure by 2040, the demand for innovative solutions and technologies to address the associated environmental, social and economic challenges is rising.
In a landmark report, the CSIRO has unveiled a billion-dollar opportunity for Australia to pioneer a growing industry in support of mine closures and transitions.
The report, titled ‘Enabling Mine Closure and Transitions: Opportunities for Australian Industry,’ was developed in consultation with over 60 industry and government organisations, and produced for the Cooperative Research Centre for Transformation in Mining Economies (CRC TiME).
The report explores the growth opportunities for Australian businesses to supply equipment, technology and services-based solutions that help solve the industry’s mine closure challenges, with an annual expenditure estimated to range from $4–8 billion on mine rehabilitation and closure.
This is not just a call to action; it’s a blueprint for a sustainable future that can drive economic growth and provide employment opportunities for both regional and Indigenous communities.
The economic landscape
Australia’s mining sector has long been a cornerstone of its economy, contributing both jobs and essential minerals crucial for the country’s energy transition and net-zero emissions goals by 2050.
Dominic Banfield, Senior Manager in CSIRO Futures and lead author of the report, emphasised the indispensable role of mining in Australia’s economic framework. He noted that with thousands of active and inactive mines, the demand for mine closure solutions is set to surge as the nation aims to ensure positive closures and transition regions to successful post-mining futures.
Opportunities for Australian businesses
The report explores four key categories of mine closure solutions, presenting a spectrum of opportunities for Australian businesses to contribute to this emerging sector.
Engagement and Partnership:
- Solutions facilitating effective engagement, co-design, and mutually beneficial partnerships are identified as crucial in improving social performance and reducing risks during mine closures.
- Australian businesses can play a pivotal role in developing innovative approaches that foster positive relationships between mining companies, local communities, and Indigenous groups.
Waste Reduction and Recovery:
- The report highlights the need for cost-effective solutions to reduce, reuse, and recycle mine waste, minimising closure liabilities.
- Australian companies specialising in waste management and recycling technologies are poised to capitalise on this growing demand, contributing to both economic and environmental sustainability.
- Improving the performance and cost-effectiveness of mine rehabilitation activities is a key focus, offering opportunities for businesses to develop innovative technologies and methodologies.
- Companies with expertise in environmental rehabilitation, soil management, and ecosystem restoration can find a lucrative niche in this emerging market.
Land Use Transitions:
- Addressing challenges in establishing post-closure land uses that generate lasting economic, social, or environmental value is crucial for sustainable mine closures.
- Australian businesses can innovate in areas such as land reclamation, renewable energy projects, and sustainable agriculture, contributing to the development of vibrant post-mining communities.
A global leadership opportunity
Dr. Guy Boggs, Chief Executive Officer of CRC TiME, sees the report as a roadmap for Australia to harness its domestic mine closure challenge and emerge as a global leader in cutting-edge mine closure solutions. The comprehensive mapping of opportunities in engagement, waste reduction, mine rehabilitation, and land use transitions showcases the diverse spectrum of possibilities within this industry.
If you enjoyed this piece on mine closures and want to learn more about Australia’s mining industry, check out our cutting-edge coverage here.