Authors: Herrington, R; Tibbett, M

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Herrington, R & Tibbett, M 2022, 'Cradle-to-cradle mining: a future concept for inherently reconstructive mine systems?', in AB Fourie, M Tibbett & G Boggs (eds), Mine Closure 2022: Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 19-28,

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Mining creates vast quantities of waste and is inherently damaging to land. These two issues have been among the most intractable in resolving sustainable mine closure. Here we propose a new ambitious concept for future mining practice, where land use and material waste are recognised as part of a mine’s assets not its legacy. The challenge is firstly to build a closed-circuit mining system where all excavated materials are exploited as a resource. These uses may be quite disconnected from the primary mined ore where other industrial, agriculture or urban uses may be found, along with more conventional uses for the encapsulation of toxic wastes and the reconstructed and sustainable post-mining landscape. The ‘cradletocradle’ concept should lead to a post-mining landscape that h as equal or greater ecosystem services to the pre-mining landscape. This approach demands more detailed knowledge of the mineralised system from the earliest exploration stage, outlining the nature of the entire orebody and enclosing rock mass that will allow a more complete planning of mineral recovery and handling of discarded material, accommodating any plans for future secondary recovery operations. This knowledge also directly informs the planned reconstruction and remediation strategy. Post-mining landscapes will need to have reconstructed ecosystem services that are designed to be ‘net-nature-positive’ while delivering outcomes that are beneficial for all stakeholders. Consequently, closure planning needs the collaborative involvement of all stakeholders from the start (socially embedded rather than socially engaged) which can then help deliver an inherently reconstructive cradle-to-cradle approach to the operation transferring the site back from the mining company to government or a third party for its future use.

Keywords: geological audit, life of mine, land rehabilitation, material characterisation, stakeholder engagement

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