Kalbar Conversations Column

My experiences of rehabilitation in mineral sands mining

   Wednesday 16th December, 2020

This week’s story is to honour our colleague and friend Dr Victor Hugo who passed away on 9 December 2020.

For more than 30 years I have been involved in the mineral sands industry. My connection began as a student at university, studying titanium minerals under a microscope. I then worked as a metallurgist at one of the world’s largest mineral sands mines, progressed through the corporate ladder in a variety of roles, and eventually became CEO of Kalbar.

I love working in the mineral sands industry and have never moved away from working in this industry. What keeps me in the industry is that I see the benefits that mineral sands products bring to our lives, and that mineral sands mining is the least intrusive method of mining.

Indelible in my memory is my first visit to Richards Bay Minerals in South Africa and being taken for a drive through the rehabilitated area. The coastal dunes had been mined for 20 years. In the areas where rehabilitation first began, a road divides the mined areas from the unmined areas. What really struck me was that it was impossible to distinguish the dunal forest on both sides of the road.

This has been my experience with mineral sands mining ever since.

Throughout my career, I’ve been privileged to visit many mineral sands mines in Australia, Africa, America and Brazil. Common to all the mining operations has been the quality of the rehabilitation. I have also had the pleasure of taking visitors to mineral sands mines operated by different companies in Western Australia. Likewise, it’s been a struggle to distinguish between mined and unmined areas – except that the grass looks greener and the cows look fatter on the rehabilitated paddocks.

Kalbar intends to follow the example of other mineral sands producers to achieve the best possible rehabilitation result for the Fingerboards Project. We plan to restore an extensive area of native grassy woodland to re-establish some of the most threatened habitat in Victoria. For me, this is one of the most exciting aspects of the Fingerboards Project – to give the land back in a much better state than the state in which we received it.

That is indeed a privilege.

To quote the words of one of our team – Victor is eternally etched into the Fingerboards Project.

Vale Victor.

Victor Hugo - Former Kalbar CEO