Eden Project plans $150m ecotourism site for Victorian coalmine


A UK charity that redeveloped a china clay quarry in Cornwall into a major ecotourism project has its eyes on Alcoa’s former coalmine in Anglesea, Victoria.

The Eden Project and Alcoa announced a plan to turn a portion of the site into a $150m ecotourism attraction based around Anglesea’s coastal location. They say they will seek input from the community.

The charity and Alcoa estimate the project could create 300 full-time jobs and attract thousands of visitors if it gains the support of the community, finds funding via investors and passes the planning and approvals process.

The proposal is in its early consultation stages. The chief executive of the Eden Project International, David Harland, said the charity and Alcoa would be seeking local support.

“We’ve had a long history of being involved with communities,” Harland said. “We don’t want to come somewhere where we’re not wanted, so we want to see what people think.”

Alcoa closed the site in 2015 after 46 years of operation. Alcoa has funded the concept work for the Eden Project development. Rehabilitation at the site will continue to be managed by Alcoa over approximately next 10 years.

The Eden Project in Cornwall, England, turned a former china clay pit into a series of gardens that feature large domes, known as biomes.

The site features the world’s largest indoor rainforest, as well as outdoor gardens and concert facilities. The Eden Project says the tourist attraction has brought £2bn into the regional economy and hosted more than 20 million visitors since 2001.

Its proposal in Anglesea is for an ecotourism project that would be built alongside Alcoa’s plans to transform the open-cut coalmine into a lake.

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Harland said it would differ to the Cornwall project and be developed in a way that suited the local environment.

The current disused mining site in Anglesea, Victoria.



The current disused mining site in Anglesea, Victoria. Photograph: The Eden Project

“We’re pretty excited about the possibility along there because there are many stories to tell today about the state of both the planet and also communities,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is to create a federation, a sisterhood of sites across the world, each of which are focused on different aspects of how humans interact with the natural world.”

He said the Eden Project had numerous approaches from Australians over the years about developing a project similar to its Cornwall site in Anglesea. Alcoa approached the charity about 18 months ago.

The issue of how to manage and rehabilitate mines after their closure is a growing one in Australia.

A report a two-year Senate inquiry published in April failed to reach an agreed set of recommendations on which responsibilities governments should have in dealing with the tens of thousands of mine sites around the country.

Harland said the charity’s focus was on reconnecting people with the natural world.

“What we did in the late 90s was we took a china clay pit, very deliberately, a place that was basically without hope, and we wanted to demonstrate that actually you could bring life back into these places that had been used up by humans,” he said.

He said the charity’s interest in the Alcoa site was because it presented an opportunity to tell a story about Australia’s environment and it had proximity to Melbourne and could draw tourists who were travelling the Great Ocean Road.

“This is about creating some opportunities for local people to benefit from some of that,” Harland said.

The charity estimated the project, after the rezoning and planning approvals process, would take 18-24 months to construct.

John Osborne, the director of asset planning and management at Alcoa, said the proposal was “an opportunity to showcase the site’s unique natural values while making a significant and lasting contribution to the region for generations to come”.

“We look forward to receiving input from the Anglesea community and key stakeholders on this concept for the freehold mine site,” he said.



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