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Great Latrobe Park – an idea worth pursuing


If you can picture the great coal mines of the Latrobe Valley reimagined as a world-class tourist destination you will understand the concept behind the Great Latrobe Park.

Nina Burke is the founder of the group and she explained to Traf District News; “The cessation of mining in the Latrobe Valley is a once in a millennium opportunity to create a positive legacy.

“This is an opportunity to create something visually attractive and economically useful for the people of the Latrobe Valley. In my mind, a park is the most valuable thing we could do for this area. It could be used as a foundation for business opportunity, economic development, health and wellbeing for our community. As such, this vision takes the project beyond simple rehabilitation to active and suitable repurposing.”

Great Latrobe Park comprises 11 individuals including Richard Polmear, former Mine Engineering Manager and Director of Mining at Hazelwood with more than 30 years’ experience and Robert Gaulton, formerly the Senior Latrobe Valley geologist with the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. Richard and Robert have long brown-coal mining careers and are in a perfect position to understand the issues.

GLP is a non-aligned volunteer collective of concerned community members with considerable expertise in health, regional planning, engineering, mining, geoengineering, agricultural science, business, education, economics and more.

Rehabilitation of the Hazelwood and Yallourn mine lands – and eventually Loy Yang, is a massive task and should involve many organisations, including state government, local council, mine owners, farming bodies, water and catchment authorities, environmentalists and more – all working together. This according to GLP, is not yet in train.

GLP sees its role as promoting discussion on possibilities and weighing suggestions/ alternatives from others, in the interests of the broader Latrobe Valley community.

Hazelwood and Yallourn mine lands should not be seen in isolation according to Robert Gaulton; “The two are interconnected and future use needs to consider this. There’s nowhere else in the world with holes of this size that have attempted to be remediated, particularly in soft rock such as brown coal. These are some of the largest mining voids in the world and one has a township perched right on the edge.” Loy Yang is also connected to Hazelwood at the sub-surface level so a cohesive approach is needed.”

The assumption that all the mine voids should automatically be filled to overburden level needs to be justified as water is a scarce and finite resource with many important uses including the environment, according to the group.

A certain amount of water in the Hazelwood mine void is necessary to suppress the aquifer pressures, but the precise level and the technical justification for it are as yet unclear.

At Hazelwood, they have removed about a billion tons of weight in the form of dirt and coal with maybe 100 million tons of dirt having been placed back within the void since 1998.

There’s a net shortfall. So, in order to maintain stability, Hazelwood needs to depressurize to stop the buildup of pressure in the aquifers. Otherwise, the floor will heave and with the floor heave, the sides may collapse. There are many competing needs for water. Hazelwood alone proposes to take about one and a quarter Sydney Harbour’s worth of water. Yallourn would require a similar amount and Loy Yang about the combined Yallourn and Hazelwood volume. Where does this water come from?

Robert; “There’s certainly geological and geotechnical arguments which require at least partial filling of Hazelwood mine void. The assumption that all the mine voids should automatically be refilled to overburden level though, requires more justification and the proper consideration of alternative options.”

Asked by Traf District News if GLP was achieving traction, Nina said; “Due to Richard’s strategic interventions, we’re now making some progress with government authorities and other people who have skin in the game. So, GLP is currently being recognized as an advocate for providing balanced community input.

“In summary, our objectives are:
• Replacement economic activity for the current and future losses (power station and mine operations and the timber industry and flow-ons), and

• A liveable environment, with aesthetics to attract new residents and maintain the ones we have. “GLP believes repurposing the mine lands is a significant opportunity towards these objectives.

“We are a group of volunteers who have the interests of our community at heart. For this matter to be satisfactorily progressed it will require ongoing commitment from more than GLP.”

Editor: Traf District News will bring more on this group in future issues.