Over much of Australia, rainfall is highly seasonal and storm-driven. Consequently, operational mines often need extensive earthworks – drains, dams and levees – for protection during the occasional large floods and for water storage against the dry times; however, it has not been appreciated that many of these earthworks will need to function after mining has finished, sometimes, beyond a normal design life for engineered structures.
While a mine is operating, standards for design and maintenance are dictated by regulation and risk assessment. For dams and levees – regulated structures – the standards imposed mainly relate to life-of-mine. The levels of risk and maintenance accepted by the mine operator may not be acceptable to another landholder in perpetuity. However, the Environmental Authority cannot be surrendered unless the landholder has accepted responsibility for any unrehabilitated regulated structures (Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP), 2016).
In order for a future landholder to be willing to take responsibility for a dam or levee, the structure should be of value to the business of the property. In addition, its management needs must be consistent with that business; for example, it should be maintainable using skills, equipment and materials normally available to the business.
Henderson, S J, 2016. Earthworks or landforms? Designing for
lease surrender, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2016 Conference , pp 151–153 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).