A key challenge for planning in resource rich regions is addressing land use conflict associated with mining development. As mining ore bodies tend to occur together such as along a coal seam the impacts of mining can be concentrated in a single region. Of key importance for regional planning is assessing the cumulative dimensions of impacts. Cumulative impacts result from successive, incremental and combined impacts (positive and negative) on the environment, society and economy. For example, the negative impacts of a single mine may be insignificant regionally, but the impacts of successive and additional mine developments over time can result in changes to important natural and cultural resources.

   A regional approach to planning is critical

For new regions areas such as the Galillee Basin where there are large areas of unmined economic resources planning is important to ensure the retention of natural and social capital. In older mining regions such as the Hunter Valley the focus may be on closure and ensuring that new mines to do not impact on already fragile ecological or social systems.

Important for land use planning is to spatially assess the areas of conflict and compatibility of mining development and natural and social values such as biodiversity and water. To do this requires working across multiple disciplines combining complex leading practice discipline specific modelling tools.

One example of research in this area is the development of GIS tools and spatially explicit modelling methods in the Hunter Valley which model cumulative impacts and allow for the assessment of conflict and compatibility.

Greater Hunter valley case study

This case study explored how to consider interactions between two system components – water and biodiversity.

Rather than developing new modelling methods our research focused on integrating existing discipline specific methods. On the left (figure below) is the modelling output from spatial prioritization tool Zonation used in conservation biology. The final output describes ranked biodiversity priorities. On the right is a hydrological flow path model describing downstream water provisioning services. Commonly used by hydrologists.

Biodiversity and water.JPG

We combined both models to characterise water provisioning ecosystem services. We identified areas that have water provision and contribute to areas of high biodiversity values. Using geological data we identified areas of potential future coal mining activities. By overlaying the two outputs we could identify areas of conflict and compatibility (figure below). We found, that as the areas where the coal seams are found is largely cleared there was very little conflict with mining. However, this is only one of many ecosystem services or that would could have potentially assessed.

Water provisioning ecosystem services.JPG

Future research

A key direction for research is developing methods that combine spatially explicit modelling tools for characterising cumulative impacts that allow for constructive dialogue between stakeholders with competing interests. We need methods for constructing future scenarios of mining development with competing values. Especially methods for linking water resources which critically interact with many other important values affected by mining development.


Lechner AM, Mcintyre N, Bulovic N, et al (2015) A GIS tool for land and water use planning in mining regions. 21st International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM2015), Broadbeach, Queensland, Australia from Sunday 29 November to Friday 4 December. 21st International Congress on Modelling and Simulation, Gold Coast, Australia, 29 Nov to 4 Dec 2015, Gold Coast, Australia, pp 1359–1365

Link to paper

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