Woodlawn Mine site repurposing: Success factors, enablers and challenges

Sarah Holcombe

This project emerged from the Mining as a temporary land use: transitions and repurposing scoping study as part of the Social Aspects of Mine Closure Consortium. The case study serves as an example of an innovative and sustainable land-use transition in an area once used solely for mining. While this transition was not led or funded by the mining industry, it is a successful contemporary example offering multiple lessons for mining industry-led or funded repurposing.

Starting from around the year 2000, part of the Woodlawn copper, lead, and zinc mine in regional NSW was repurposed into a bioreactor and associated “eco-precinct” over a 10-year period. This example was a brief case study in the Mine Closure Leading Practice Sustainable Development Program for the Mining Industry (Australian government 2016: 24-25).

Woodlawn is one of the largest and deepest purpose-built bioreactor landfill projects globally. As at 2019, the site was accepting approximately 40% of Sydney’s putrescible waste and is recognised as an example of best practice in the application of landfill technology. The project assists several Sydney Councils to meet their targets for reducing landfill, being located 250km south of Sydney. It has also expanded to take waste from Canberra and Goulburn.

Likewise, as the previous mine owners (Denehurst Ltd) left the site in receivership, little rehabilitation had occurred. As a result, site remediation and rehabilitation is also an integral aspect of this repurposing by the new owners – Veolia – over the proposed 60-year lifespan of their operation.

This case study, as an interconnected set of repurposing initiatives, offers a ready vehicle for the development of additional interactive operations maps (via graphical representation), that may be adapted to different case studies. This graphical representation for this case study - visually portraying the evolution of the Eco-precinct - is available at https://www.mineclosure.net/projects/woodlawn-mine-site-repurposing

A key learning is that massive mine voids are not likely to be rehabilitated by conventional approaches. Unconventional and innovative solutions also need to be considered, and that look beyond the linear economy to embrace the growth in the circular economy and regional economic diversification. The example of this bio-rector is one such innovative solution.

Holcombe, Sarah (2020). Woodlawn Mine site repurposing: Success factors, enablers and challenges. Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining. The University of Queensland: Brisbane.

Project report
Woodlawn Mine site repurposing: Success factors, enablers and challenges