The future of mine waste management envisioned at inaugural symposium

15 February 2024

Professionals and researchers from around Australia considered a future with ‘net zero’ mine waste during the inaugural Australian Mine Waste Symposium at The University of Queensland.

Hosted by the Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) in partnership with the Geological Survey of Queensland (GSQ), the Symposium provided over 160 delegates with an opportunity to connect with their colleagues and interrogate ‘status quo’ mine waste management through presentations, workshops and informal networking.

Video: Queensland Government Department of Resources

Associate Professor Anita Parbhakar-Fox, leader of SMI’s Mine Waste Transformation through Characterisation (MIWATCH) Group and Symposium Co-Chair, said the event launched a new, national conversation on the future of mine waste.

“The event offered stakeholders from a range of sectors the chance to shape a meaningful conversation on the future of mine waste in Australia,” Associate Professor Anita Parbhakar-Fox said.

“I think it delivered on that, providing attendees with over 60 presentations or technical posters, a panel discussion with leading experts, question and answer sessions and workshops.

“The conversation was quite comprehensive thanks to our approach of considering four themes: valorisation to sequestration, mining and reprocessing pathways, barriers to success, and the future landscape.

“A particularly salient question – ‘is net zero mine waste possible by 2050?’ – was posed on day 1 and demonstrated the value of this type of event, with delegates re-examining their responses as they were exposed to new research and ideas.

“It also showcased the energy and talent of the next generation of experts, the people who will be exacting real change in their careers, to delegates through an early-career researcher forum.”

The final session of the Symposium consisted of four workshops, each of which examined the challenges and opportunities associated with the pathway to improving practice through the lens of the event’s main themes.

“Opportunities and challenges associated with a range of topics were collected from delegates throughout the Symposium, and these served as the basis of the discussions for each workshop,” Associate Professor Anita Parbhakar-Fox said.

“The conversations in the workshops covered lots of ground, ranging from thoughts that there might be an over-focus on critical metals in the space, to how research can better be translated into practice, and the need for industry standards. 

“Notes from these workshops were taken and will be used to produce a white paper which will set out what steps will need to be committed to in order to significantly reduce our waste footprint by 2050.”

The Symposium was sponsored by Geoscience Australia, Geological Survey of Western Australia (GSWA), BHP, Core Resources Pty Ltd, Glencore Australia, 29Metals, South Australia’s Department for Energy and Mining, Sedgman Pty Limited.