New Environment Centre Directors to drive innovative research, industry engagement and education

11 May 2020

Innovative research, industry engagement and education are all on the agenda for the new Directors of the Sustainable Minerals Institute’s Environment Centres.   

Associate Professor Claire Côte, Director of the Centre for Water in the Minerals Industry (CWiMI) and Associate Professor Peter Erskine, Director of the Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation, both began their new roles earlier this year and, despite COVID-19's  affect on Australian universities,  have been working around-the-clock to maintain and develop their respective Centre's professional and research outputs.  

Associate Professor Peter Erskine, Director of the Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation

Peter takes up the mantle of CMLR Centre Director following an extensive research career focused on monitoring ecosystems and assessing landscape rehabilitation outcomes. 

As part of this research, Peter assisted Glencore in securing rehabilitation certification for its open-pit coal operations in Queensland by developing a standardised set of monitoring methods.

“Industry should be championing land management, aiming as high as possible when it comes to recreating and enriching the biodiversity on mine sites,” he said.

“We know simple efforts to rehabilitate mined land do not lead to high biodiversity outcomes … concentrated efforts are needed to create complex habitats that will otherwise not come back by themselves in our lifetime.

“At CMLR we have a portfolio of projects evaluating the resilience of current rehabilitation using a combination of ground monitoring and remotes sensing data from satellites and drones.

“We are also researching technologies that promise to assist the industry in addressing sustainability challenges, such as our programs to rehabilitate complex tailings material and identifying hyperaccumulator plants to rehabilitate mineral waste streams.

Associate Professor Claire Côte, Director of the Centre for Water in the Minerals Industry

To the role of CWiMI Director Claire brings more than 20 years’ experience with water and environmental management, closure planning and identifying beneficial post-mining land uses that minimise residual risks.
On top of helping to establish CWiMI in 2004, Claire has extensive experience in the international mining industry, having documented and implemented leading practice in operations in Australia, Africa, Chile and Canada.
“Companies need to invest in a strong cohort of environmental professionals to successfully respond to issues around post-mining land use, environmental performance scrutiny and investor confidence.  
“The more time we spend researching water, the more we realise we aren’t just facing challenges around access to water, but actually a myriad of issues at a range of scales, from the mine to the catchment level.
“At CWiMI we will be working on a range of very different projects over the coming months, from developing an erosion and sediment control framework in Queensland to researching underground mines’ interactions with swamp hydrology values in New South Wales. 
“CWiMI has also been connecting and collaborating with SMI’s Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining to develop our role in identifying post-mining land use.
“We are very eager to begin delivering environmental training courses, an initiative which has been delayed due COVID-19 but is planned for a Semester 2 return.