A new sustainable mining research and education centre at UNSW will use advanced technologies such as 3-D simulation in its work to assist the long-term viability of the mining industry in Australia and south-east Asia.
The Australian Centre for Sustainable Mining Practices (ACSMP) will develop and advise on techniques and technologies to improve the environmental outcomes of mining but will also take a much broader approach to the concept of sustainability.
ACSMP Director and holder of the Mitsubishi Chair in Sustainable Mining Practices in the School of Mining Engineering, Associate Professor David Laurence, said sustainability in mining was about minimising environmental impacts but also using ore reserves efficiently, maximising economic viability, increasing safety and building ties between miners and communities.
"Mining is getting tougher but the world's demand for minerals is only going to grow," he said.
"There will always be more pressure to mine and we need the resources that mining produces but we need to go about it in a sensible way. We're trying to provide solutions to the problems of conflicts between extraction of resources and protection of community and environmental values."
The multidisciplinary ACSMP, within the UNSW Faculty of Engineering, brings together mining engineers with researchers in fields including civil and environmental engineering, satellite monitoring and energy systems management.
The centre's recent launch was attended by the Japanese Consul-General Masahiro Kohara and leading industry representatives, among them Mitsubishi Development MD and CEO Kirk Yamanaka and NSW Minerals Council CEO Nikki Williams.
Dr Williams said mining sustainability was about more than simple restoration of mine sites.
"It's about building something new, creating opportunites for people to thrive, and leaving behind a better community than you started with," she said.
ACSMP will employ UNSW's iCinema 3-D simulation technology to train miners and develop interactive virtual mine models to allow community groups to examine proposed mining operations. There are four simulator training centres using UNSW technology in NSW, with thousands of mining workers trained since 2008. The UNSW mine training software is being marketed internationally.