Sustainable closure of coal mines in Australia to a safe, stable, non-polluting condition remains one of the industry’s biggest environmental and social challenges. A significant proportion of mines in the Bowen Basin of Queensland have dispersive spoil. Based on an estimated area of 20,000ha and a rehabilitation cost of AUD$100,000 to AUD$150,000/ha, the instantaneous rehabilitation liability for the Bowen Basin alone is estimated at AUD$2 to $3 billion.
Dispersive spoils present problems in post-mining rehabilitated landforms due to increased potential for surface and tunnel erosion, compromising the ability to achieve fundamental mine closure objectives of a safe, stable, non-polluting and self-sustaining post-mining landform (Minserve, 2004). Dispersion results in clay particles being mobilised and transported in water, even at low flow velocities (So et al., 1998; Minserve, 2004), and blocking of soil pores, resulting in surface sealing, crusting and reduced permeability (DNR, 1997; Vacher et al., 2004) which, in turn, further increases runoff (Dang et al., 2018).
Dale, G, Reardon-Smith, K, Thomas, E, Bennett, J, McCallum, L and Raine, S, 2018. A process-based approach to mine rehabilitation decision making using Bayesian modelling and risk-based principles for dispersive spoil rehabilitation, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2018, pp 106–109 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).