The Dialogue is supporting industry studies which demonstrates that rehabilitated mine land can support long-term sustainable and profitable cattle grazing in the Upper Hunter.
An Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue trial of grazing beef cattle on rehabilitated mining land showed rehabilitated mined lands can be used as commercially-productive pasture after mining has ended.
The Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue’s Grazing Study grazed cattle on rehabilitated pastures and compared the results to cattle grazed on nearby paddocks that had never been mined.
From June 2014, two lots of cattle were grazed on rehabilitated paddocks at Hunter Valley Operations (HVO) site near Singleton and BHP’s Mount Arthur Mine site at Muswellbrook.
The study was designed and independently monitored by the NSW Department of Primary Industries in collaboration with the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue Joint Environment Working Group, which includes representatives from agricultural groups, local farmers, environmental groups, state and local government and the mining industry.
The study was able to compare the results from two mobs of cattle at each of the rehabilitated and analogue paddocks. In both sets of trials, the cattle on rehabilitated sites gained more weight than the cattle grazing on the unmined or “analogue” sites located adjacent to the rehabilitated sites.
The trial also monitored the health of the cattle through blood tests and monitored the pasture, providing valuable information on the growth rates and feed quality of the rehabilitated land.
Importantly, tests performed on the cattle and pasture feed showed no unusual results due to the pastures formerly being used for mining. The cattle were also sent to market and tested with no worrying results.
A follow-on study examining grazing on rehabilitated mine land is currently being finalised. An ACARP project, ‘Examination of Past and Present Mine Rehabilitation to Grazing Land as a Guide to Future Research’ (C27030), is being led by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment with the support of industry.
This project is identifying the main drivers and successful practices for re-establishing functioning soil and pasture systems, potentially leading to faster rehabilitation outcomes and sustainable grazing land use management options for mine closure.
This study is currently being finalised, having been sent to industry monitors for review in March 2020. Once finalised, the results will be shared with the Dialogue’s Joint Environment Working Group.
For more information about the initial cattle grazing project and report, please visit the ACARP project page here:
Click to view a summary of the Dialogue’s Grazing Study can be found in this poster.