Valuing mine site restoration and biodiversity offsets

Estimating the values people hold for mine site restoration options

Australia is one of the world's leading mining nations, with substantial identified resources of major minerals and fuel. The mining industry is the fourth largest contributor to Australia's gross domestic product, contributing $114.4 billion in 2012-2013. Whilst the mining boom has produced significant economic benefits, mining operations cause considerable environmental damage which imposes large costs on society. Surface mining in particular affects large areas of land, creates waste rock, leaves contaminated tailing ponds, reduces groundwater tables, and damages flora and fauna.

In Australia, as in most mining countries, mine operators are obliged by law to rehabilitate all disturbed surfaces before mine closure. However, guidelines for mining rehabilitation vary from state to state and it is not known what public benefits are provided by different types and timing of rehabilitation. Without knowing the value of public benefits such as biodiversity conservation or reconstructed landscapes we cannot assess whether investments in rehabilitation provide value for money.

In this project, you will estimate the 'non-market' values of mine site restoration using an economic valuation technique called 'choice experiments'. Estimating these values is necessary to enable their inclusion in economic costs-benefit analyses.

A specific focus of the study is the trade-offs between rehabilitating environmental damage at a mine site and providing biodiversity offsets elsewhere. Would the public accept biodiversity offsets if a mine site cannot be completely restored? How much biodiversity offset should be provided to compensate for the environmental damages at the site? Are some types of biodiversity offsets worth more than others?

This is an exciting project that is expected to yield important results to inform policy making about mine site restoration.

For more background information, see the suggested readings below.

Suggested readings

Research team leader: Dr Marit Kragt

I am a Senior Lecturer at the UWA School of Agricultural and Environment. I have a PhD in environmental economics and integrated modelling from the Australian National University. My research interests include interdisciplinary research, bio-economic modelling, agri-environmental management, and non-market valuation. I have extensive experience working in multi-disciplinary research teams. My research aims to aid natural resource managers and policy makers make better environmental decisions.

How to apply

Interested in becoming part of this project? Complete the following steps to submit your expression of interest:

Step 1 - Check criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Requirements specific to this project include:

  • You will have a degree in natural resource economics or environmental economics.
  • Experience with non-market valuation is highly desirable.

Step 2 - Submit enquiry to research team leader

Step 3 - Lodge application

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, you should be in a position to proceed to the next step of the UWA application process: Lodge an application. Different application procedures apply to domestic and international students.


Scholarships specific to this project
  • A top-up scholarship is available for talented students. Contact Dr Kragt for details.
Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
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