The Commonwealth Government has moved to establish a Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) to give farmers, forest growers and landholders access to domestic voluntary and international carbon markets. This will begin to unlock the abatement opportunities in the land sector which currently make up 23 percent of Australia’s emissions. As part of this, the Commonwealth Government has produced a discussion document that outlines the scheme (1). It is expected that the CFI will include:

The Commonwealth Government has moved to establish a Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) to give farmers, forest growers and landholders access to domestic voluntary and international carbon markets. This will begin to unlock the abatement opportunities in the land sector which currently make up 23 percent of Australia’s emissions. As part of this, the Commonwealth Government has produced a discussion document that outlines the scheme (1). It is expected that the CFI will include:

  • A carbon crediting mechanism;
  • Funding to fast track the development of methodologies for offset projects; this includes on-farm demonstration of biochar; and
  • Information and tools to help landholders benefit from carbon markets.

Potential eligible abatement activities under the CFI include:

  • Reforestation and revegetation (which includes mine site rehabilitation);
  • Reduced fertiliser emissions;
  • Reduced emissions or increased sequestration in agricultural soils (soil carbon);
  • Avoidance of deforestation;

One of the major requirements of this scheme is permanence. The discussion paper suggests that biological carbon stores would be generally considered permanent if they were maintained (on a net basis) for at least 100 years.

The addition of biochar to mine sites, as a part of an integrated scheme for soil remediation, could provide a powerful means to sequester carbon in a stable manner with lifetimes in soils measured to be in millennia. Biochar is a carbon-rich solid generated from thermal decomposition in the near absence of air (pyrolysis) of biomass feedstocks from sustainably managed resources. During this process the remnant solid carbon forms stable structures that are highly recalcitrant to degradation when added to soils. Addition of biochar to soils can also result in reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Mineral phases attached to biochar can act as to promote plant growth and to buffer the acidity generated in sulfide-rich mines. It has been suggested that mine tailings could also be a beneficial ingredient for the production of biochar-mineral complexes (Anthroterra, Renewed Carbons and UNSW) and Technosols (artificial soils). A consortium between Anthroterra, Renewed Carbons and UNSW has also explored the use of tailor-made charcoal for the steel industry. Professor Marta Camps at Massey University has collaborated in the mine site remediation of a copper mine in NW Spain, in which Technosols have been designed to solve specific environmental conditions (e.g., high acidity, nutrient deficiency, heavy metal toxicity), while sequestering carbon in soils.

Experts in this field from Australia and New Zealand will come together to present a workshop on ‘‘Opportunities for Carbon Sequestration and Mine Site Rehabilitation in the Mining and Metals Industries Using Biochar”. The objective of this workshop is to discuss the opportunities for application of biochar as a means of reducing carbon footprint in the mining industry and mine site rehabilitation. Specific objectives include:

  • To inform the mining and metal processing industry of the role of biochar in emissions abatement, land reclamation and water treatment
  • To summarise technical advancements in biochar science over the last 2 years.
  • To outline the potential for greenhouse gas abatement through pyrolysis of biomass to produce biochar for soil amendment, and/or charcoal for use as a reductant
  • To outline the international efforts and how these can enhance business in developing countries.

A full day workshop program held at the University of New South Wales on June 23rd, 2011 will include a number of presentations by experts in the field, together with scheduled opportunities for discussion and informal networking opportunities. Thematic areas for presentations include:

  • What is biochar and how is it made and used?
  • The international effort and biochar’s role in food security.
  • Utilisation of wastes and minerals to make more cost effective biochars
  • Utilisation of biochar as an ingredient of Technosols
  • How can biochar help abate emissions in the mining and metal processing industry?
  • How can biochar help in mine site rehabilitation?
  • Life Cycle Assessment and Permanence in biochar utilization.

Further, there is an optional second day site visit on June 24th to Anthroterra Pty Ltd located on the Central Coast of NSW to inspect first hand pilot plant pyrolysis facilities.

Speakers will include:

  • Professor Marta Camps – Massey University,
  • Professor Annette Cowie – Director of National Centre for Rural Greenhouse Gas Research,
  • Professors Stephen Joseph and Paul Munroe – University of New South Wales,
  • Dr Lukas van Zwieten – Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute,
  • Mark Glover- Renewed Carbon Pty Ltd

The workshop will be held on June 23rd at the University of New South Wales. To register for this workshop please contact Paul Munroe (p.munroe@unsw.edu.au). The cost of the workshop will be $395 (including GST) if registration received before June 1st and $445 (including GST) after June 1st.