Mine Pit Lakes in Australia: an International Perspective

Naresh Kumar(MiWER), Clint McCullough (MiWER), Mark Lund (MiWER)

What are the characteristics of Australian pit lakes and how do compare to those of other countries?

The MiWER team were invited to contribute a book chapter on “Mining lakes in Australia” to the book, “Acidic Pit Lakes – legacies of coal and ore mining” published by Springer. The book is a revised version of the now 10 year-old well-recognised publication by the same publishers. Our chapter will highlight knowledge of mine pit lakes in Australia. Main topics that are covered in the chapter are the total number of mine lakes, type of mining, physical, chemical and some biological characteristics, any remediation and rehabilitation approaches planned or already carried out, remediation drivers and the socio-economic aspects of the mine lakes etc. To assist us, we have contacted regulatory agencies in all states as well as a broad range of industry groups and consultants to provide information on pit lakes across the country.

Photo: Australia has many highly acidic and also highly saline lakes as a result of its arid climate. Mine from the Goldfields of Western Australia.

Map: With a mining booming in Australia, mine pits are forming larger and more ubiquitous pit lakes than ever before.


Kumar, N. R.; McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2012). Pit lakes in Australia.In: Acidic Pit Lakes – Legacies of surface mining on coal and metal ores. (Ed W. Geller & M. Schultze). Springer, Berlin, Germany. 342-361pp.link

Kumar, N. R.; McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2009). Water resources in Australian mine pit lakes. Proceedings of AUSIMM Water in Mining 2009Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM), Perth, Australia. pp. 507-511.PDF

Kumar, N. R.; McCullough, C. D. & Lund, M. A. (2009). Water resources in Australian mine pit lakes. Mining Technology. 118: 205-211.link

Monitoring Strategies for Australian Pit Lakes and Connected Waters

Dr. Clint McCullough (MiWER), Mark Lund (MiWER), Lu Zhao (MiWER)


Conceptual modelling to better understand ecological risks posed by pit lakes


Strategic management of pit lakes as a regional resource and/or liability requires a data collection programme to advise management processes such as environmental and human health and safety. Development of a monitoring and management strategy for pit lakes and connected waters would be made through a review of the various international best practice guidelines.

This study has begun with a literature review of pit lake water quality monitoring strategies. In particular, parameters identified from reviewing existing pit lake datasets and known to be important to pit lake management and eventual modelling will be a focus of a proposed monitoring strategy. A cost-effective and achievable monitoring strategy will be developed, incorporating international best practice and parameters chosen to fill data gaps will be clearly identified. Details of sampling regimes recommended for each selected parameter will be presented. Frequency and timing of sampling will be discussed and recommended.


Photo: Sampling of bottom waters using a Kemmerer bottle on Lake Kepwari (Naresh Kumar). A water quality sampling programme is fundamental to pit lake management.

Photo: Aquatic ecological sampling is also an important indicator of pit lake rehabilitation success. Here Mark Lund and Clint McCullough are undertaking fish sampling at Centaur Pit Lake.     


McCullough, C. D.; Lund, M. A. & Zhao, L. Y. L. (2010). Mine Voids Management Strategy (III): A Monitoring Strategy for Pit Lakes and Connected Waters. Department of Water Project Report MiWER/Centre for Ecosystem Management Report 2010-2, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia. 100pp. Unpublished report to Department of Water.