Post-mining land uses that may float your boat, or even your home

August 25, 2014

Mined land in Germany has been developed for a wide variety of post-mining land uses, from factories and forestry to lakes for fishing, boating and even floating homes. 
Speaking at the NSW Mining Environment & Community Conference in the Hunter Valley, Germany’s Joint Governmental Agency for Coal Mine Rehabilitation's Dr Friedrich von Bismark explained the significant effort and investment over the past 20-25 years to rehabilitate the land from East Germany’s pre-1990 coal mining industry and the array of post-mining land uses that have been achieved.

Pictured: Dr von Bismarck presents in the Hunter Valley today.
Mine rehabilitation is required by law in NSW and there are some good examples of rehabilitation underway or completed, with land uses including grazing, cropping and native bushland.  
The Joint Governmental Agency for Coal Mine Rehabilitation was formed as a partnership in the early 1990s between industry and governments to address in East Germany what Dr von Bismark described as “the opposite of sustainable development”. 
"To go back to the situation before was technically and economically impossible, but we also now know that it isn't desirable to go back and it has provided opportunity for change,” he said.
A range of techniques were deployed to stabilise the land. Mine voids were then flooded and interconnected, effectively functioning as a sponge, feeding into river systems so that a minimum water flow is always available.
New landscapes have led to new industries and there is now a good balance between mining and other land uses. For example, wine growing is now taking place in an area where the land has been re-shaped to face the south where previously it faced north and didn’t get enough sun for productive grape growing.
"Animals are returning to these formerly mined areas, including deers and wolves, which have not been seen in Germany for over 100 years,” he said. 
“We’ve planted 110 million trees and created a huge forests with maple, oak and pine trees. And arable farming land has been developed on land previously used as a mine spoil dump.”
Some of the land uses have also been extremely creative, including floating homes on ‘mine lakes’ as well as fishing, boating and other recreational activities. 
There have been successes, but there have been drawbacks as well.
"There were land slides and ground breaks in 2011. In some creeks, one percent of the area looked after, we’ve seen cases of iron hydroxide from local mining and farming which can stain the water but is not toxic. We are hopeful that with the work we have underway we will be able to control these issues in the near future.”
Telling the story of the land’s past and it’s future has been an important part of the acceptance of these projects, according to Dr von Bismark.
He says that rehabilitation projects should foster the local identity and be tangible and transparent so that everyone in the community knows what is going on, why it is happening and has something to look forward to as part of the process. 
NSW Minerals Council Deputy Chair and Northparkes Mines Managing Director Stefanie Loader opened the event, saying that what our miners are doing is important and matters for the future of the state.

Pictured: NSW Minerals Council Deputy Chair and Northparkes Mines Managing Director Stefanie Loader opening today's event.

"At Northparkes, we give this approach a name - zero harm operations. It means more to us that going home safely every day. It also means minimising our impact on the environment and living in harmony with our neighbours and our community. It’s the way that we’re proud of doing what we do.”
Ms Loader also announced that the manager of the mine’s extensive farming operations, Geoff McCallum, has been nominated for Australian Farmer of the Year. 
"Geoff is planning to retire this year after more than 40 years farming. And wouldn’t it be great if a farmer who has worked for a mine for 18 years can retire and be named the farmer of the year."
CMOC-owned Northparkes Mines is currently celebrating 20 years of operations in the state’s Central West and is the Platinum Sponsor of the 2014 NSW Mining Environment and Community Conference. 

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