With the Carmichael Mine now in operation, the management of our mining and pastoral leases and related biodiversity is well integrated into our planning processes and activities.
In addition to meeting the requirements outlined in the comprehensive approvals for the Carmichael Mine and Rail Project, Bravus Mining & Resources is committed to progressively rehabilitating land disturbed by mining activities and maintaining land habitat and biodiversity values.
“Rehabilitation” refers to the measures and actions used to return land disturbed by exploration, construction, or mining operations to a comparable pre-mining standard.
The rehabilitation approach at Carmichael Mine was approved by both State and Federal regulators in 2014 and sees Bravus progressively rehabilitate land disturbed by mining activities to a safe and stable landform that can sustain approved post-mining land uses, mainly grazing.
Progressive rehabilitation means the staged rehabilitation of disturbed areas during the exploration, construction or development and resource extraction phases of a mining project, instead of large-scale works at the end of operations. This is a better environmental outcome and one we are proud to deliver.
A full schedule describing the rehabilitation obligations for the Carmichael Mine was included in the Environmental Authority (EA) and final land uses for various habitats across the Mine, including a range of areas for grazing, are also outlined in reports developed as a part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. Further commitments are included in the Black-throated Finch Management Plan and the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan.
Those plans include the actions Bravus has already begun with the planning for future operations and the rehabilitation of disturbed vegetation. In addition, early work is underway to rehabilitate bore hole areas and topsoil has been stockpiled for future use.
To demonstrate compliance with approval conditions, Bravus provides reports on its activities in accordance with the regulators’ requirements.
These reports can be found at bravus.com.au/sustainability/environment/
Bravus has created a conservation area on land owned by the company at Moray Downs West to protect habitat for local flora and fauna.
This conservation area is more than 33,000 hectares in size – some 126 times the size of the open cut mine area (Stage 1) – and is one of the largest privately managed nature conservation areas in Queensland.
Since its creation in 2020 the conservation area has been managed in line with the Moray Downs West Offset Area Management Plan which was approved and is monitored by both Queensland and Australian Governments.
Management actions underway include restricting stock grazing intensity, wet season spelling of the offset area from grazing, monitoring and managing fire fuel loads, animal and plant pest surveys and control, water point monitoring and Black-throated Finch research.
The Black-throated Finch (the finch) is a small native bird known for a distinctive black mark beneath its beak. The finch is found in the Townsville region and in the Brigalow Belt and Desert Uplands bioregions. The finch is also found near our Carmichael Mine.
Bravus developed, as part of the approvals process for the Carmichael Mine, a targeted Management Plan to monitor, understand, and ultimately protect the population of local finches and their habitat.
That Plan was based on seven years of expert ecological studies and includes both practical actions such as weed management, fire management, grazing management and enhancing water source locations as well as a five-year-long research component led by world experts.
To support these activities. Bravus signed an agreement with Woongal Environmental Services (Woongal) to manage Black-throated Finch habitat on the non-mined areas of the leases and the conservation area. Majority owned by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Woongal delivers environmental monitoring and management services and employs rangers, land and environmental managers, a graduate scientist and support staff – the majority of whom are First Nations people.
The Plan is now in full operation and our research scientists, First Nations rangers, and environmental team are on the ground working to monitor the behaviour and wellbeing of the finches.
The Black-throated Finch research program
The Black-throated Finch research program started in 2020 and is principally investigating:
- finch nesting, breeding, and feeding requirements
- how far they move around the area, and
- how grazing management and water sources can best support the finch in the conservation area.
The results of the program are shared with the Queensland Government to improve management of Black-throated Finch populations elsewhere in Queensland.
As part of the study, ecologists have deployed radio trackers and coloured bands on the finches to support the various research goals including habitat use, movements, foraging behaviour, nest site selection, and relationship with water.
Surveys and monitoring of the finch throughout the year include techniques ranging from active searches, water source inspections and surveys, remote camera observations and bioacoustics monitoring.
The research is delivered by third party experts who hold both Australian and Queensland government permits to conduct the research and safely monitor the finches.
Producing world-first insights
Bravus’ Black-throated Finch research program is unlocking new scientific insights into this fascinating native bird. Key learnings from the research have already shown ways to improve the finch’s habitat through cultural fire burning practices – conducted in partnership with Woongal Environmental Services - which encourage the regeneration of important finch food species.
Additionally, cattle stocking rates can be adjusted to manage grass and weed cover, and pest animal and weed management can reduce impacts to habitat for the finch.
This work has also informed the first official population estimate for the finch near the Carmichael Mine: an estimated 641–2,202 finches across 102 sites within the combined 60,000 hectares of Bravus’ pastoral lease and conservation area.
These findings complement the 2021 Black-throated Finch Management Plan Annual Report, which demonstrated Bravus’ plans to support the finch were working as planned and the finch is thriving.
The report also demonstrated the practices implemented, such as fauna spotters during construction, ensured not a single finch was harmed in the construction of the Carmichael Mine.
The 2021 report can be found on Bravus’ website.
The 2022 surveys included health and condition measurements; targeted bird and vegetation surveys; manual radio-tracking and monitoring of nests and water sources.
By mid 2022:
- 252 birds have been tagged with uniquely identifiable coloured bands fitted to their legs and/or micro transmitters. This allows the birds to be radio tracked throughout the project area to provide critical information on the movement patterns, home ranges, nesting and foraging preferences and local population estimates, all of which will inform management practices going forward.
- Nearly 50 active Black-throated Finch nests have been recorded over the last two wet seasons.
- 24 grass species in the project area have been recorded to contribute to the diet of the finches – which is more variety in forage species than previously discovered elsewhere. The research program is analysing nutritional value of various grass seeds to better understand grass species preferences with 50 samples sent to the laboratory for analysis.
The research team has installed five raised water troughs to better understand how the birds use these water sources that are not accessed by stock. Elevated water sources minimise the risk of predators, including feral cats, foxes and birds of prey, to finches while drinking, and eliminate impacts associated with cattle around traditional watering points.
A further 10 artificial nesting boxes have been installed throughout finch habitat in the project area. Nesting boxes have proven effective for other finch species but haven’t previously been trialled for the Black-throated Finch, so the research team have modified the nesting boxes specifically for the Black-throated Finch.
One of the most interesting recent findings has been the sex determination work through DNA analysis which has identified differences in the weight and the size of the black throat bib for males or females. This will be important for future assessments of the number and ratio of males to females and for identifying any behavioural differences between the sexes.