Mining Legacies

Image by Symbiosis Australia, via Shutterstock
Thursday 26 September 2019
4.00 - 5.30pm

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RD Watt Seminar Room, RD Watt Building, Science Road, University of Sydney



Mineral Policy Institute and Australian Conservation Foundation

Join a panel of experts as they challenge Australia’s current approach to managing mining legacies, embracing ethical, economic, environmental and social perspectives in an exploration of responsible mine closure.

When mines are proposed, they are typically surrounded by a host of supportive voices of proponents and political leaders who quickly associate themselves with the idea that mining will solve regional unemployment and bolster local economic activity long before a rational assessment of the proposal has been undertaken. Communities respond with different voices: some for, some against, and some ambivalent. Environmental and human rights NGOs may find collaborations with these communities – raising issues and including the local into carefully crafted national and international campaigns. In short, there often is a flurry of activity. But what happens when it’s time for a mine to be rehabilitated and close up shop?

Mine rehabilitation and mine closure is at first glance much less “spectacular” than the arrival of a new mine – there are rarely protests, blockades, or election promises when it’s time to close a mine. But it is in these apparently mundane spaces we catch a glimpse of the long-term social and environmental impacts of mining: rehabilitation failures and the slow-violence of environmental degradation; the hard work for local communities transitioning out of a resource dependent economy; and regulatory failures that lead to abandoned mines and a practice of putting mines in indefinite “care and maintenance”, which sets a precedent for mining companies to simply walk away.


Dr Rebecca Lawrence, Sydney Environment Institute
Associate Professor Gavin Mudd, RMIT University
Mia Pepper, Murdoch University
Dave Sweeney, Australian Conservation Foundation
Charles Roche (Chair), Minerals Policy Institute, Murdoch University


Rebecca Lawrence is a Research Affiliate at Sydney Environment Institute, a Research Associate at Stockholm Environment Institute, and a Research Fellow at the Department of Political Science, Stockholm University. Rebecca has a research collaboration with Australian Research Foundation regarding the rehabilitation of the Ranger Uranium mine.

Gavin Mudd obtained a Ph.D. in environmental engineering in 2001 and has extensive experience in sustainable mining, environmental impacts, risk management, mineral mining, and water management. He was author of “The Sustainability of Mining in Australia” (2007) on the Australia’s Mining Industry.

Mia Pepper is on the board of the Mineral Policy Institute and a councillor with the Australian Conservation Foundation. She has worked on nuclear and mining issues for many years working closely with affected communities. She is in the final stages of writing a masters thesis on mining policy across different jurisdictions in Australia with a focus on regulations for mines in ‘care and maintenance’.

Dave Sweeney has been active in the uranium and nuclear debate in Australia and overseas for many years through his work with the media, trade unions, Indigenous and environment groups. He leads the Australian Conservation Foundation’s nuclear free campaign and is a foundation member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

Charles Roche is the Executive Director of MPI and PhD candidate at Murdoch University. He works with local communities on the impacts of extractive industries and has published articles on Australia’s mining legacies, social and environmental impacts from mining and tailings dams failures.