Monday, June 9, 2008

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Weipa Bauxite Mine

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Mining of bauxite (aluminum ore) began at Weipa, on the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, Australia, in 1963. The mine produces 8.5 metric tonnes of ore annually, making it one of the world's largest open-cut bauxite mines.

Under current mining practices, vegetation is cleared and the topsoil is removed and either stockpiled for later use or immediately used to replace topsoil on previously mined areas. After topsoil removal, the bauxite is removed, resulting in a lowering of the entire landscape to a depth equivalent to the thickness of the orebody, often several meters. If the topsoil can be returned to a mined-out area after only a short time, it still contains most of the original soil fungi, bacteria and micro fauna. In addition, the seeds from the original plant community are likely to be viable. On slopes, rigorous soil conservation measures are implemented, and the area is then normally planted with suitable native species so that it gradually reverts to bushland. Some of the profits generated by the mining operation are being placed in a trust for cultural protection, development and long-term investments to compensate for the disruption of local Aboriginal inhabitants and their environment.

The total lease covers an area of approximately 2 590 km² (1 000 square miles) of which 68 km² (26 square miles) have been mined. Approximately 4 km² (1.5 square miles) of the mined land is re-vegetated each year, and over 50 km² (19 square miles) of land has been re-vegetated to date.
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