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Researchers investigate impact of climate change on coal mine rehabilitation

Posted: Thursday 9 September 2021

Federation University Australia researchers will investigate how climate change could impact the stability of rehabilitated coal mines.

The 18-month project will look at the critical role of soil covers and vegetation in building safe, stable and sustainable landforms following mining.

Final rehabilitation of the Latrobe Valley coal mines will require at least part of the void slopes to be covered by earthen material and soil.

Vegetation helps stabilise soil against downslope movement and regulate soil moisture, reducing the risk of erosion.

The research, led by Professor Thomas Baumgartl, will examine how changes in rainfall and increased drought will impact the soil and plant cover of rehabilitated mines.

It’s the latest in a series of research projects Professor Baumgartl is undertaking on the rehabilitation of the Latrobe Valley’s brown coal mines and will include laboratory and glass house experiments, as well as hydrological modelling.

Once completed, the project will highlight the potential impact of climate change on design requirements for ground covers in mine rehabilitation.

The $450,000 research project is funded by the Victorian Government as part of the Cooperative Research Centre for Transformations in Mining Economies (CRC-TiME) - a national collaboration of universities, industry and governments.

CRC-TiME was established in 2020 through funding from the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centre Program to help support the economic and social transition of Australian mining communities including Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.

Quotes attributable to Federation University Professor Thomas Baumgartl

“Planning for the impacts of climate change is critically important to the successful rehabilitation of mines.”

“This research will assess the risk of vegetation being impacted by the predicted change in climate and offer options for how to design soil covers to best cope.”

“While the research will focus on the Gippsland region, it’s hoped the findings will be a valuable tool for Australia’s mining sector more broadly.”

 Quotes attributable to CRC TiME CEO Dr Guy Boggs

“Mine rehabilitation and closure is a national priority, with over 180 mines due to close in the next decade.”

“Climate adaptation is critical across industry, community and government. Any aspiration to deliver healthy ecosystems and livelihoods for post-mining futures must consider the consequences of climate change”

“We need to develop nationally significant solutions and are excited to see this project get started.”

Quotes attributable to Executive Director, Earth Resources Policy and Programs, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, Jane Burton

“The Latrobe Valley Regional Rehabilitation Strategy states that mine rehabilitation should be climate resilient.  This research is needed to help implement that principle.”

“The work of Federation University will support the transformation of Latrobe Valley’s brown coal mines to safe, stable and sustainable environments.”

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