In 1995, our Mount Owen coal mine in New South Wales, Australia, embarked on a research programme that has already led to the establishment of a native forest area on rehabilitated mining land.

While there were existing techniques for growing trees on overburden previously removed from mining areas, it is important to establish native forest vegetation on land used by Hunter Valley mines, as we progressively rehabilitate areas that are no longer mined. This research could also help establish native forests beyond Mount Owen’s boundaries and help meet the operation’s biodiversity objectives for the wider Hunter Valley. The techniques being developed could also enhance the condition of areas we have already rehabilitated.

We planted a new 430 hectare area forest in an area previously devoid of native woodland and forest vegetation. The area has since been incorporated into the Ravensworth State Forest, where it is designated for conservation. It is regularly monitored as part of our ongoing flora and fauna monitoring and research programme.

We have developed a strong partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Ecosystem Restoration at the University of Newcastle. Research has included:

  • Studies linked to research training
  • Monitoring plant diversity in the state forest and rehabilitation sites
  • Manipulative experiments to improve rehabilitation outcomes

To date, 5 undergraduate and 2 doctorate projects have been completed, providing valuable information on the quality and regeneration process of mine rehabilitation areas at Mount Owen, and how closely they resemble the natural environment in Ravensworth State Forest.

We have also begun further targeted research with the University of Newcastle, to assist implementation of our biodiversity offset strategy. The primary aim is determining best practice for restoring pastureland to a forest woodland ecosystem. The outcomes and resulting restoration techniques will be freely available to the community for adoption in similar projects.

Our biodiversity offset strategy seeks to establish offset areas through experimental intervention, providing impetus for natural and seeded/planted forest regeneration in offset areas.