Mining of the earth's natural resources has been a necessary function of societies across the globe since the dawn of civilisation. However, once extracted, mined sites often leave enduring social and ecological legacies.
In Australia, with a relatively short mining history, there are more than 50,000 derelict mines, beginning with the first gold rushes, continuing today in the intensified resource extraction boom, and indeed into the future with mines being approved with no requirement to fill the voids at the end of extraction.
The inextricably linked nature of social and ecological systems means that changes to the ecological landscape can manifest in feelings of 'Solastalgia', to use the word coined by ecophilosopher Glenn Albrecht to represent this sense of loss of place.
While these mine scars have many negative legacies, for those sites not heavily polluted there may be positive values such as voids suitable for domestic waste disposal, secondary mining opportunities, tourism and alternative land uses.
The Eden Project in Cornwall is one very successful example. Starting in 1995, a huge former clay quarry was transformed into a major tourist attraction for the region with a mission to promote sustainability and the understanding of the vital relationship between plants, people and resources.
The Eden Project site is more than two hectares and comprises three huge dome-like buildings housing plants from all over the world, as well as outdoor climbing structures and zip lines across the site. It attracts more than a million visitors a year.
Importantly, it has also attracted like-minded industries such as green waste usage, plant nurseries and engineering and material science business startups.
The Eden Project has grand plans to similarly transform the closed Alcoa Power Station and its associated open cut coal mine area into an Australian version in Anglesea, Victoria.
The concept includes a 100-hectare lake and an educational centre.
We will have our own Lake District between Singleton and Muswellbrook when the 30-something voids fill with water.