A $6.7 million research centre based at Curtin University in Western Australia will partner with mining companies to apply world-class science to the rehabilitation of retired mine sites. The Centre for Mine Site Restoration (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.
The CMSR, directed by eminent botanist Professor Kingsley Dixon of Curtin’s Department of Environment and Agriculture, is coordinating research between Curtin University, Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, and The University of Western Australia (UWA).
In addition, the CMSR is supported by major industry partners including Sinosteel Midwest Corporation, BHP Billiton, Hanson Construction Materials, Karara Mining, Cliffs Natural Resources, Mineral Resources and the Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia.
Professor Dixon, who was named WA Scientist of the Year last August in recognition of his efforts in conservation science, restoration ecology and plant science, said it was vital that the mining industry was supported in applying high quality science to 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,” Professor Dixon said.
“Researchers at the post-graduate and doctoral levels 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.”
Professor Dixon said the CMSR was one of the first Australian Research Council (ARC) Industry Transformation Centres funded in Western Australia 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,” he said.
That success has been reflected in the three Golden Gecko Awards Professor 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,” he.
“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.”
The centre, based at Curtin and with satellite activities at UWA, Kings Park and a number of 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.
Its multi-disciplinary staff will deliver a suite of integrated and focused research projects that underpin successful mine site restoration outcomes.
“What the centre will do is 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 – from transnational companies down to mums and dads working in local community groups to restore coastal dunes, local lakes and more,” Professor Dixon said.