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Stabilisation and rebuilding of environments following mining – a perspective from Australia

Friday 29 March, 2019

IRD, Noumea, New Caledonia

Mining has major direct and indirect impacts on its environments. Among these impacts is the overburden produced when accessing the desired resources and the tailings by-product from ore processing. When exposed to the elements, these mined substrates react with typical minerals found in the gangue, leading to a number of undesirable side effects. The resulting chemical reactions can mobilise salts and generate acid rock drainage. Mitigating or preventing the harm caused by these reactions requires management strategies suited to the local environmental conditions. In this presentation, I will introduce some of the main issues and concerns caused by mining with a focus on Australian conditions.

Associate Professor Thomas Baumgartl, from the University of Queensland focuses on mine closure and exploring site specific solutions for the construction of safe, stable, sustainable and non-polluting landforms.

In his research, Thomas investigates soil hydrological and soil mechanical processes and their effect on the environmental performance of rebuilt landforms including constructed covers over waste rock or tailings storage facilities. This includes designing and setting up test sites and monitoring critical water balance parameters like deep drainage, runoff, evaporation and water storage (plant growth). Data interpretation and numerical modelling under various climatic conditions are applied for the assessment of the performance for the purpose of mine closure.

Cross-discipline, Thomas collaborates in studies on geochemical properties and ageing behaviour of substrates like land covers from soil, waste rock, tailings, for the purpose to predict their hydrological and geochemical evolution and the future trajectory of response within their environment and to inform about their level of risk to successful mine closure.

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