Finucane, SJ, King, JC & Tarnowy, KM 2022, 'The 5R Model: facilitating decision-making on repurposing of industrial and ancillary infrastructure', in AB Fourie, M Tibbett & G Boggs (eds), Mine Closure 2022: 15th International Conference on Mine Closure
, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 295-306, https://doi.org/10.36487/ACG_repo/2215_18
Closure of mining landscapes is widely discussed within, and investigated by, the mining industry with increasingly innovative alternative uses found for open pits, underground workings, waste rock landforms, tailings storage facilities and water dams. When it comes to industrial and ancillary infrastructure though, many mining companies elect only to decommission and dispose of this infrastructure onsite. However, there is a growing need for efficient, effective and sustainable ways to find alternative purposes for these features, particularly in the face of increasing resource scarcity.
The concept of ‘adaptive re-use’ is not new: it is common in the construction industry where re-use of materials and equipment is considered to be a win-win strategy, in modern communities, where recycling and even upcycling has become second nature, and in urban renewal, where there is a focus on repurposing of heritage buildings and other structures. Further, there is growing support for the ‘circular economy’ ethos, which favours careful management of resources and intelligent re-use of products and reconsidering the term ‘market’ more broadly.
Many mining companies are now adopting a circular approach in selected areas of their business and while this is mainly focused on active operations, it is considered that there is an opportunity to extend this thinking to mine closure. However, identifying what materials can be ‘mined’ for re-use or repurposing can be challenging, partly due to obsolescence but also because of tenure restrictions, liability issues, transport costs, legal constraints and other factors. On this basis, the ‘5R Model’ has been developed to facilitate decision-making in relation to the alternative uses for industrial and ancillary infrastructure associated with mining and mineral processing operations.
This paper outlines the basis of the 5R Model and the way in which this classification system can be used to guide investigations and decision-making for repurposing of industrial and ancillary infrastructure, including blue-sky options. Drawing on case studies on alternative closure scenarios for mining and mineral processing infrastructure and lessons learned from ‘urban mining’, this paper also discusses potential pathways to achieve these uses and facilitate custodial transfer of physical assets, and ways in which this model can also assist companies meet their waste minimisation, carbon reduction and other targets during closure of their sites.
Keywords: infrastructure closure, repurposing, adaptive re-use, circular economy, carbon reduction
Ally, AN, Blanche, MM, Nan UJP, Grâce, MM, François, N & Pettang, C 2021, ‘Recovery of mining wastes in building materials: a review’, Open Journal of Civil Engineering, vol. 11, pp. 379–397.
Alter, L 2020, Ruhr Museum is a Great Example of Adaptive Reuse of Industrial Heritage Buildings, viewed 2 March 2022,
Arora, M, Raspall, F, Fearnley, L & Silva, A 2021, ‘Urban mining in buildings for a circular economy: planning, process and feasibility prospect’, Resources, Conservation and Recycling, vol. 174.
Bender, AP & Bilotta, P 2019, ‘Circular economy and urban mining: resource efficiency in the construction sector for sustainable cities’ in W Leal (ed.), Sustainable Cities and Communities, Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, viewed 8 March 2022,
Beuemann, C 2020, Environmental Rehabilitation and Repurposing – Guidance on the Governance of Environmental Rehabilitation and Repurposing in Coal Regions in Transition, viewed 9 June 2022,
Blok, M 2021, Urban Mining and Circular Construction – What, Why and How It Works, viewed 12 March 2022,
Department of the Environment and Heritage 2004, Adaptive Reuse. Preserving Our Past, Building Our Future, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
Finucane, SJ & Tarnowy, K 2019, ‘New uses for old infrastructure: 101 things to do with the ‘stuff’ next to the hole in the ground’, in AB Fourie & M Tibbett (eds), Mine Closure 2019: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 479–496,
Hall, M 2020, Gathering Dust: How Can Depleted Mines be Repurposed?, viewed 5 April 2022,
Holocombe, S & Keenan, J 2020, Mining as a Temporary Land Use Scoping Project: Transitions and Repurposing, Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, The University of Queensland, Brisbane.
Hu, Y 2021, Preserving Collieries: A Form of Urban Regeneration for Mining Cities in China, viewed 4 June 2022,
Iacovidou, E & Purnell, P, 2016, ‘Mining the physical infrastructure: opportunities, barriers and interventions in promoting structural components reuse’, Science of the Total Environment, vol. 557–558, pp.791–807.
International Council on Mining & Metals 2022, The ‘Circular Economy’ in Mining and Metals, viewed 1 June 2022,
Keenan, J & Holcombe, S 2021, ‘Mining as a temporary land use: a global stocktake of post-mining transitions and repurposing’, The Extractive Industries and Society, vol. 8, pp. 1–10.
Kretschmann, J 2020, ‘Post-mining – a holistic approach’, Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, vol. 37, pp. 1401–1409.
Kuranchie, FA 2015, Characterisation and Applications of Iron Ore Tailings in Building and Construction Projects, viewed 4 March 2022,
Murphy, DP, Fromm, J, Bairstow, R & Meunier, D 2019, ‘A repurposing framework for alignment of regional development and mine closure’, in AB Fourie & M Tibbett (eds), Mine Closure 2019: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 789–802,
Randell, P & Baker, B 2020, Mining Industry Off the Road Used Tyre Analysis, Tyre Stewardship Australia, Collingwood.
Tyson, R 2020, Innovative Ways to Repurpose Old Mines, Mining International Inc, viewed 4 April 2022,
Van de Weijer, M 2018, Temporary Reuse of Industrial Relics before Demolition: A Case Study of Parkstad and the Former State Mine Emma, viewed 22 February 2022,
Wallis, C, Frangos, J, Mikkonen, M, Merz, R & Mikkonen, A 2019, Application of Rapid Risk Assessment to Drive Interim Cleanup for Abandoned Mine Sites, CleanUp 2019, Adelaide.
Worden, S 2020, Integrated Mine Closure Planning: A Rapid Scan of Innovative Corporate Practice, Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, The University of Queensland, Brisbane.
Wu, X, Yu, L, Fang, H & Wu, J 2021, ‘Research on the protection and reuse of industrial heritage from the perspective of public participation – a case study of northern mining area of Pingdingshan, China’, Land, vol. 11.