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From quarries to waste management facilities

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A geospatial analysis of Victoria’s abandoned mines and quarries has identified several rehabilitation options.

There are an estimated 19,000 abandoned mines and quarries in Victoria.

A study by Monash University researchers has investigated which of these sites can be repurposed for water storage, flood mitigation or municipal waste facilities.

Associate Professor Mohan Yellishetty, of the resources engineering division of the Department of Civil Engineering at Monash University, headed the seven-strong research team that undertook the study. He told Quarry that there several other applications these sites can be used for, such as recycling.

“There are likely to be currently inactive mines for which recycling is a great option,” Yellishetty said. “It is a question of finding the right match between location, resources, capabilities, and market needs.

“If municipal waste recycling is the target, the proximity to a large population and transportation corridors to next use facilities are needed.

“A recently decommissioned mine may have materials handling and mobile equipment that could be repurposed very economically. A pit may be an ideal location to carry out activities where noise and dust abatement are required.”

The researchers used a Geographic Information System (GIS) to analyse the abandoned sites through a quantitative approach. According to the researchers, the GIS was the most effective way to determine where the most suitable quarries and locations are for rehabilitation.

“With the ability to rapidly process different spatial maps and to calculate and evaluate the proximity of different abandoned mines to geographic, environmental, planning, demographic and other features, GIS analysis can produce ‘suitability maps’ that provide powerful visual aid and decision support to the diversity of stakeholders and community groups affected,” Yellishetty said.

This is important for scoping studies of quarries, where proximity is a significant factor.

“Quarry operators know more than most, it is not just a question of what you do, but where you do it,” Yellishetty said.

“A GIS study is an excellent way to commence a scoping study, whether it is to examine opportunities for a given operation, or the need it to survey all possible sites in a region, state, or the whole country.

“The analysis can reveal the most suitable mines and locations for rehabilitation, contrast the difference in stakeholder opinions which are represented by different weightings of various factors influencing the decision process and quick map potential challenges and hazards that may arise in choosing specific areas over others.”

The study said that Victoria’s increasing population has caused an upsurge in the demand of waste management facilities, with abandoned quarries and mines also presenting a viable opportunity for more of these sites.

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