enviroMETS launched to promote new mine closure thinking

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Former Mount Morgan mine site in Queensland
‘enviroMETS opens the door for commercial collaborations to research and deploy new technologies’

New energy and thinking being applied to effective closure and regeneration of disused mine sites is going to be co-ordinated in Queensland, Australia, in a way that could produce a model for governments and industry in other parts of the world. An architect of enviroMETS Queensland says the not-for-profit firm can help solve “industry-wide challenges”.

Broadening the focus of the Queensland Government and METS Ignited-backed TailingsTeQ ‘cluster’ set up in 2018 – which drew scores of mining equipment, technology and services (METS) companies, and others, to help devise better mine tailings and water rehabilitation methods – enviroMETS aims to get on the front foot with owners scheduling future mine closures to foster a more collaborative approach to improving closure outcomes.

About 1200 abandoned mine sites in Queensland attest to the fact that “successful mine closure or economic post mining outcomes have traditionally been a challenge for industry”, METS Ignited said this week in a statement.

“Evidence suggests effective closure and relinquishment is almost a rarity and navigating the regulatory framework can be protracted and complex.”

METS Ignited CEO Adrian Beer said enviroMETS’ mission was to devise “repurposing, recommercialising and remediation solutions to ensure land used for mining was most valuable and usable to future custodians and to provide a conduit of innovative industry-led solutions to government and mining companies”.

Collaborative efforts are helping to fast-track technology development and process change in other parts of the mining industry, including around mine vehicle electrification and diesel displacement.

METS Ignited, a six-year-old Australian federal government and industry-backed growth centre, has become a key national body supporting commercialisation of new resource-sector technologies and products. It has also been instrumental in establishing the country’s Future Battery Industries Co-operative Research Centre and Electric Mine Consortium.

Beer said a review of the TailingsTeQ initiative highlighted potential gains from a broader focus.

“It was clear multiple groups would benefit from the support of a dedicated organisation engaged in project coordination and lead collaboration management,” he said.

“SME vendors, research and academia, government and state-owned entities, as well as mining, METS organisations and investors, could all leverage a trusted independent broker representing enviroMETS groups.”

Beer said enviroMETS aimed to bring the best skills, research and experience in key mine rehabilitation areas together to improve outcomes for mine-affected land, for industry, communities and the environment. The fields included mine lifecycle planning, geochemical and mine-affected water management, waste reprocessing, geotechnical and tailings storage facilities, mine closure management, and governance.

“enviroMETS opens the door for commercial collaborations to research and deploy new technologies such as reprocessing mine wastes for essential mineral extraction or repurposing the landform for another commercial use,” he said.

Base metals junior New Century Resources’ “economic rehabilitation” of one of the world’s largest zinc mines, Century in north-west Queensland, aims to shrink the environmental footprint of the former mine and infrastructure while the company profits from reprocessing vast quantities of tailings. Its plan to maximise economic benefits from the resource and infrastructure while enhancing the final site remediation result is seen as an improvement on the original closure blueprint.

enviroMETS is understood to be in the process of establishing half a dozen or more “lighthouse projects” to demonstrate the value of its collaboration model.

“The goal is to establish projects with partners who are contributors, [with enviroMETS] co-ordinating outcomes on behalf of stakeholder groups,” Beer told InvestMETS.

“By scoping realistic projects with targeted stakeholders we can prove our capability and show measurable outcomes.

“The focus of [collaborating] groups might be regional – around a legacy mine area – or on a particular commodity.

“Most rehabilitation projects are at the individual site level and sub-economic, and more research-focused than full lifecycle to re-use.”

enviroMETS executive director Allan Morton said the early projects could accelerate acceptance of the collaborative model, “which I believe will deliver a unique set of unparalleled benefits to our participant groups, the environment and future custodians of these parcels of land”.

*Adrian Beer is presenting at the upcoming IMARC event in Sydney, New South Wales, November 2-4.

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