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Development of a Sustainable Rehabilitation Strategy for the Management of Acid Rock Drainage at the Historic Mount Morgan Gold and Copper Mine, Central Queensland

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  • The Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines (NR&M) accepted the environmental liability for the Mount Morgan minesite in 1991. This gold and copper mine located 38 km southwest of Rockhampton had been in operation for more than 100 years. Mining leases are still active while the feasibility of a reprocessing operation is carried out. From 1993, NR&M have operated a seepage interception pumpback system which has reduced the chronic load of acid rock drainage (ARD) to the adjacent Dee River, a tributary of the Fitzroy River system. In early-2000, it was recognised that a ten-year plan for rehabilitation of the mine, along with significant funding would be required if a long-term sustainable rehabilitation strategy was to be implemented at this minesite, ultimately making the seepage interception system redundant. A rehabilitation planning workshop coordinated by NR&M was held in May 2000. This workshop brought to the mine a range of technical expertise and key stakeholder groups. This workshop provided a technical forum for review of studies undertaken and to identify priority projects, which needed to be undertaken in the future to more clearly define contaminant sources on the mine site and to prioritise the rehabilitation program. Stakeholder consultation enabled the project team to be clear on community and other government (eg Environmental Protection Agency) expectations. It is clear that the future of the economically depressed community of Mount Morgan will be reliant on the careful management of the significant heritage values at the minesite for tourism, education and research. In the first year (2000), priority studies were initiated, which included whole of site studies on water balance, contaminant sources and a review of occupational health and safety and environment of the minesite and conservation and heritage scoping. Baseline vegetation and soil materials surveys were also initiated. The outcomes of these studies helped to shape the work program for the following year, while providing a basis for an additional funding application, which was granted. The second year of studies focused on building upon the existing baseline studies completed. In addition, studies focussed on addressing the priority issue of contingency planning for overflow from the open cut pit in accordance with best practice management of release water and river monitoring strategies were completed. Completion of these projects over the next six months will enable the optimal rehabilitation strategy to be defined in 2003. This optimal strategy may require the use of a water treatment plant for part of the ten-year program to provide space in the open cut pit for the deposition of ARD contaminant sources (eg waste dumps, tailings). It is envisaged that some sources will be rehabilitated insitu while others will be relocated to the open cut pit. Implementation of this strategy will be dependent on subsequent funding.

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