Authors: Chimbganda, T; Broadhurst, JL

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Chimbganda, T & Broadhurst, JL 2021, 'Investigating the potential use of fibre-rich plants to create multi-value chains for post-mining industrial development', in AB Fourie, M Tibbett & A Sharkuu (eds), Mine Closure 2021: Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Mine Closure, QMC Group, Ulaanbaatar,

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Post-mining land use for the production of industrial crops has the potential to mitigate environmental and socio-economic impacts of mine closure and stimulate post-mining economic growth. Fibre-rich plants are of particular interest due to their multi-product potential. In a South African context, where there are many abandoned and end-of-life mines near human settlements, there is an opportunity to assess the feasibility of transforming post-mining land into productive land and building resilient communities through the development of multi-product value chains from fibre-rich plants such as kenaf, hemp or bamboo. Biomass from fibre-rich plants, such as bamboo, kenaf and hemp, can be converted into various semi-fabricated and higher-end products (such as textiles, paper, furnishings, building materials, bio-plastics and bio-composites) as well as energy. The selection and development of viable processes and products for the downstream utilisation of plant biomass from post-mining land is complex and needs to be based on a comprehensive understanding of the options available, while considering the environmental, socio-economic and technical drivers, opportunities and constraints. This paper provides a review and assessment of the various processing routes for recovering value from fibre plant biomass, such as kenaf, hemp and bamboo, through the conversion into useful products, and potential integrated metal extraction, for the creation of post-mining industrial development. Based on findings from a comprehensive review of the published literature, as well as interviews with relevant experts within South Africa, it appears that bast fibre plants are the best downstream option for producing “green” textiles and high-end niche products, whereas bamboo is more suitable as a replacement for conventional timber. The desired products will, however, determine the fibre plant and plant-product processing options, and will be dependent on various local socio-economy and geography factors.

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