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Careers in Mining: Land a career that cares

Thu 2nd Apr 2020

New Hope Group environmental and approvals manager Emma Knights.
New Hope Group environmental and approvals manager Emma Knights.

The Australian mining industry's approach to land rehabilitation has improved significantly over past decades, driven by investment in rehabilitation techniques as well as evolving corporate values, community expectations and government regulation.    


Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable says mining companies understand land rehabilitation is fundamental to responsible mining and recognise their responsibility as a temporary custodian of land to contribute to sustainable outcomes.    


"While much progress has been made, the industry is continuing its efforts to improve rehabilitation methods to ensure mining's compatibility with current and future land uses," she says.


"Mine rehabilitation is highly regulated and, as a condition of approval, companies are required to progressively rehabilitate mine land where practical."    


Mining company New Hope Group is a leader in Australia when it comes to rehabilitating open-cut coal mines.


When its New Oakleigh West coal mine in the Bremer Valley, west of Brisbane, closed in 2014, the 223ha site was restored to grazing land over three years.    


Researchers compared the weights of cattle that grazed on undisturbed land to those recorded after the site had been restored and found, in some cases, the cattle on rehabilitated sites were the heaviest.    


New Hope Group environmental and approvals manager Emma Knights, pictured, says all their operational mines have environmental staff based on site.    


"This includes undertaking environmental monitoring and analysis of data - (such as) dust, water, noise, groundwater, ecology - to ensure our impacts are minimised," she says.    


"We also have teams who conduct site inspections, and (who also provide) environmental advice to operations, to ensure our environmental obligations and legislative requirements are fulfilled.    


"Importantly they also maintain our Environmental Management System which was established to ensure we understand and mitigate environmental risks and continually improve our management of the environment.


" Knights says many people would be surprised by how much emphasis is placed on environmental sustainability in mining.    


"It is probably the most misunderstood and misrepresented area of our industry," she says.    


"The mining industry is heavily regulated and rightfully so.    


"We work and operate in beautiful environments that we care for and respect and ensure that we return these environments to sustainable land uses once our mining operations come to an end.


"We are determined to not only meet but exceed community expectations, especially with regard to appropriate environmental management."    


Knights predicts ever-increasing demand for environmental staff in mining.    


They typically require a degree in environmental science, environmental management, engineering or something similar.    


She says resource companies look for people with a knowledge and understanding of Commonwealth and State Acts and Regulations and approvals processes, data analysis and report writing skills.    


Prospective employees also should  have experience in environmental management systems and auditing and general communication and team skills.