New uses for old infrastructure: 101 things to do with the ‘stuff’ next to the hole in the ground

S. J. Finucane and K. Tarnowy

Ten years ago, the Post-Mining Alliance in association with the Eden Project published Georgina Pearman’s 101 Things to Do with a Hole in the Ground. This publication illustrates the ways in which closed mines have been repurposed in an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable manner. However, there was limited mention of repurposing the associated mine infrastructure. This is understandable given that the focus of the tome was on the ‘hole in the ground’, and in fact illustrates how much companies prioritise planning for closure of open pits and underground workings, along with other large mine features such as waste rock landforms and tailings storage facilities. Indeed, mining companies commonly propose only to decommission mine support infrastructure and dispose of it onsite or elsewhere. However, repurposing of mine infrastructure can also provide significant value. Recent research has identified numerous ways in which mine infrastructure (such as railway lines and processing plants) and other commodities (such as conveyor belting and vehicle tyres) can be repurposed and provide benefit for the environment and community. It is clear from this research that the way in which mine infrastructure can be re-used or repurposed varies from site to site, and requires consideration of a range of factors including the location and type of infrastructure, landscape ecology and landscape architecture, the regional and local planning context, regulatory frameworks and economics. In some instances, these initiatives go beyond adaptive re-use to become landscape architectural projects that are more about invention than merely corrective measures of rehabilitation or restoration. This paper discusses new ways to use old mine site infrastructure. It presents case studies on repurposing infrastructure from a number of countries, and identifies key success factors and limitations for these projects. The way in which these aspects affect decision-making associated with post-mining use of infrastructure is also discussed. The paper concludes that a long-term vision and a business case (and, in some instances, also legislative change and even a marketing plan) are critical to allow appropriately timed and cost-effective custodial transfer of infrastructure assets.

Finucane, S. J. & Tarnowy, K. (2019). New uses for old infrastructure: 101 things to do with the ‘stuff’ next to the hole in the ground. In A. B. Fourie & M. Tibbett (Eds.), Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth (pp. 479-496).

Conference paper
Closure, Post-closure
New uses for old infrastructure: 101 things to do with the ‘stuff’ next to the hole in the ground