QUT funding to develop AI-enabled mine rehabilitation

Queensland University of Technology researchers have secured $1.14 million to develop two significant mining research projects that will have a positive impact on Queensland.

The first project is to develop Australia’s first artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled mine site rehabilitation system and associated software, run by researcher Dr Kien Nguyen.

The other research project conducted by Dr John Outram will develop new value-added materials from mining waste for use in plastics recycling, water purification, and agriculture.

Nguyen said there were 220,000 hectares of disturbed mine lands across Queensland with an estimated rehabilitating cost of $7.3 billion.  

“Our proposed AI-enabled software platform will facilitate faster and more accurate site-specific assessment, and rehabilitation strategies that are theory-proven, site-tailored and progressively adaptive compared to conventional manual practices,” he said. 

“The outcomes will contribute to minimising the impact of mining’s footprint on our state’s economy, society, and environment by safely integrating mines back into the landscape. 

“The research is applicable to all mine sites that need rehabilitation no matter the location, so there is also an opportunity to export our technology and expertise internationally.” 

Nguyen will lead a team of experts in AI and machine learning, ecological and environmental management to develop advanced computer vision and machine learning techniques in partnership with ecological engineering company, Verterra, working closely with the Office of the Queensland Mine Rehabilitation Commissioner. 

Outram will focus on transforming mineral mining waste into valuable products for industrial uses, in partnership with the Environmental Development Group, Synbio, and a Queensland vertical farming company. 

“The waste material is considered low-value, so we are looking to develop ‘recipes’ that convert it to improved materials as part of the formation process, to produce customisable end-products suitable for use in industrial reactors, vessels, and columns,” Outram said. 

The project will use the waste stream from a Queensland exploration site to determine the value proposition of new advanced materials as saleable commodities. 

Both three-year projects will commence in 2022 and are expected to create regional and rural jobs.

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