Curtin University launches $6.7m research centre to tackle mine rehabilitation

Curtin WA School of Mines. Image: Curtin University

Western Australia’s Curtin University is collaborating with mining companies at a new $6.7 million research centre to apply world-class science to the rehabilitation of retired mine sites.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre for Mine Site Restoration (CMSR), directed by botanist Professor Kingsley Dixon of Curtin’s department of environment and agriculture, is coordinating research between the university, Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority and The University of Western Australia (UWA).

The centre, based at Curtin and with satellite activities at UWA, Perth’s Kings Park and several mine sites, will focus on six key research areas: restoration genetics, seed technology and enablement, rare species management, restoration ecophysiology, restoration trajectory, and mining industry policy extension.

According to Curtin, the centre’s multi-disciplinary staff will deliver a suite of integrated and focused research projects that underpin successful mine site restoration outcomes.

The CMSR is being supported by several industry partners, including Sinosteel Midwest, BHP Billiton, Hanson Construction Materials, Karara Mining, Cliffs Natural Resources, Mineral Resources, and the Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia.

Dixon, who was named WA Scientist of the Year last August, said it was vital that the mining industry was supported in applying high-quality science in its efforts to restore the integrity of mine sites.

“Restoration sits at the heart of Australia’s ability to sustainably and responsibly exploit its mineral wealth,” Dixon said. “The CMSR aims to connect high-end science with on-ground practice in mining restoration, and to train the next generation of high level researchers to be industry-ready.

“Researchers both at the post-graduate and doctoral level will work within industry, so industry will get to see them and understand the value of science, and the scientists will see how their research is valued and applied in the industry setting.

“They’ll be able to understand the needs of the mining sector and enhance the sector’s capacity to deliver improved financial, social and environmental outcomes.”

Dixon said the CMSR was one of the first ARC Industry Transformation Centres funded in WA and was the culmination of decades of work and critical discoveries within the field of mine site restoration.

“I’ve spent 30 years working across the broad mining industry – it’s been a really exciting journey and it’s meant that WA, more than any other place in the world, leads in innovation in environmental repair following mining,” Dixon said.

That success has been reflected in the three Golden Gecko Awards Dixon has received, in partnership with industry, for environmental excellence within the mining industry.

“The mining industry in WA has embraced the need for knowledge-led improvement in environmental management, however there is still much more work to be done,” Dixon said.

“The industry has taken it on the chin that they need to do a lot better, because they mine on ancient, biodiverse and often important ecological landscapes, and it’s a great credit to them that they have risen to the occasion to support this centre.”

Dixon said the centre would consolidate and deliver a more effective package across a broad range of industries, identifying a ‘restoration trajectory’ for sensitive sites and a generic toolkit that will have application globally.

The CMSR is funded by the ARC ($4.9 million), with primary support from Curtin ($961,000). It adds to the university’s already strong commitment to the Australian and international mining industry.

Curtin was last month ranked second in the world for its mineral and mining engineering program in a global survey that analysed popular subject areas by The QS World University Rankings.

The university hosts the WA School of Mines, which is based at both its Bentley campus in Perth and at Kalgoorlie-Boulder in the state’s Goldfields region.

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