CRC major boost for research at Flinders

Flinders University expertise will support a $29.5 million national consortium to support regional Australian communities facing mine closure.

The Australian Government funding for the new Cooperative Research Centre on Transformations in Mining Economies (CRC-TiME) forms part of a total 10-year investment of $135.4 million to support the successful transition of mining communities to form sustainable community and development opportunities.

With several large mines around Australia reaching their end and closing in the next ten years, this joint effort will undertake social, environmental, economic and technical research, work directly with industry and communities and enable Australia to transition to a prosperous and sustainable post-mining future.

The CRC-TiME consortium will be led jointly by the University of Western Australia and the University of Queensland and brings together 75 partners including BHP, Rio Tinto, Deswik, Decipher, the State Governments of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, as well as researchers from eight universities, including Flinders University, and the CSIRO.

Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor in Hydrogeology Craig Simmons, Director of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT), says Flinders will play a major role in the new CRC.

It builds on the new BHP-Rio Tinto-NCGRT Groundwater Modelling Decision Support Initiative (GMDSI) and long-running ARC Linkage Projects examining mine site hydrogeology in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, with industry partner Rio Tinto.

“Mining is such a big issue in Australia and around the globe,” Professor Simmons says.

“Groundwater is front and centre in that and this is an opportunity to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the mining sector as well as our communities and environment.”

Professor Sarah Harmer-Bassell is director of Adelaide Microscopy and Microanalysis at Flinders University.

Professor Simmons says the multimillion-dollar CRC grant affords a “rare opportunity to do large-scale, interdisciplinary research over a long period of time, creating many valuable collaboration opportunities for various experts from the Flinders College of Science and Engineering and with the larger CRC team”.

Flinders researchers involved in the new CRC include Professor Simmons (groundwater and groundwater modelling), Professor Peter Cook (groundwater and environmental tracers), Dr Ilka Wallis (groundwater, geochemistry and reactive transport modelling), Professor Sarah Harmer-Bassell (spectroscopic analysis of surfaces), and Dr Martin Breed (ecosystem health, restoration ecology, and genomics).

Flinders University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Robert Saint says the CRC TiME “offers Flinders researchers a key role in addressing grand challenges for the mining industry, government, the community and the environment”.

“This important collaborative initiative builds on the great successes by NCGRT in the groundwater and mining space, including recent and ongoing work on these issues with the support of major mining companies BHP and Rio Tinto,” says Professor Saint.

“It also brings new opportunities for other researchers at Flinders to work together on this important problem.”

CRC-TiME CEO Dr Guy Boggs, from UWA and the Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute, says while mining contributes greatly Australian wealth and living standards, mines eventually close.

“With several large mines around Australia reaching their end and closing in the next ten years, this joint effort will position Australia as a global leader in mine rehabilitation and closure and ensure our regional communities have the capacity to capitalise on opportunities for post mine development,” Dr Boggs said.

“CRC TiME has the potential to create hundreds of new opportunities and regional jobs through the implementation of restoration activities and increased supply of closure and post closure products and services.”

Open cut mine. Stock image: Pixabay

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) CEO Warren Pearce says CRC TiME brings together 50 leading mining companies, governments and industry associations to bring “scale and coordinated investment in research that will deliver a better approach to mine closure”.

“AMEC’s members are focussed on ensuring the best possible outcomes at the end of mine life, and the CRC will help finance research to ensure Australian mine closure remains the best in the world,” Mr Pearce says.

“The CRC-TiME focus on capacity building, education and training to ensure best practice is embraced reflect our industry’s priority on getting the best possible outcomes.”

UQ’s Sustainable Minerals Institute and CRC-TiME’s Research Director Professor Anna Littleboy said the CRC’s innovative research would provide new knowledge to help balance environment, economic and social outcomes and optimise post mine outcomes.

“CRC-TiME is expected to provide over $2.4 billion of benefit by bringing Australia’s leading mine rehabilitation and closure experts together, drawing on social, economic, engineering and biological sciences to address the complex challenge of a post mining future” Professor Littleboy said.

The Commonwealth Governments announcement is the culmination of over 12 months of extensive consultation across Australia.


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