Managing Bendigo’s groundwater - When contaminated mine water finds a new purpose

Project Title:

Managing Bendigo’s groundwater: When contaminated mine water finds a new purpose.


Associate Professor Kim Dowling, Dr Al-juboori and Dr Dora Pearce

Contact person:

Associate Professor Kim Dowling

A brief description of the project:

Bendigo’s network of disused and abandoned mines is dewatered and this liberates water with elevated levels of salt, arsenic, other heavy metals and hydrogen sulphide gas.  A classic example can be found at an Evaporation Ponds Complex which includes a series of ponds historically used to evaporate groundwater from underground gold operations in Bendigo. This process and outcomes require independent academic evaluation and generation of ideas for new processing methodologies. Issues with dust, arsenic redistribution, sustainability and reportability are all issues raised by local and community groups. Government (DELWP, EPA, Council) studies may not fully address the issue of arsenic bioavailability and redistribution of arsenic salts. And an evaluation of the entire sustainability of the process is required.

We have the opportunity to investigate new methods for water treatment and determine if the arsenic redistribution is linked to the current evaporation method dispersion. We propose to use tracers in dust (using ANSTO technology) to determine mobility and bioavailability of the arsenic salts. The current treatment method is wasteful of water in a drought-affected landscape and other methods need evaluation.  We propose a systematic assessment of the process in place in this environment  but note that it  will have applications globally. This chemical environment is common in many old or abandoned gold mining districts and we see applicability in many scenarios.