Weipa seeds

Sowing seeds for stronger rehabilitation

We’re working with community seed collectors to improve how we restore land after mining

Last updated: 14 June 2023

Please be aware that this story contains images of people who have passed away, which could be culturally sensitive to some readers. 

As you drive through our Weipa operations in Australia, a small sign marks each rehabilitated section with the year it was replanted.

Weipa’s bauxite mine has been operating in Far North Queensland since 1963, extracting the rocks used to make aluminium, a major metal needed for the energy transition. The way we produce aluminium is just as important as the final product – and as temporary stewards of the lands we operate on, we have a responsibility to remediate the land as we finish mining.

The patchwork of different rehabilitation areas at Weipa – each a different height, density, and mix of species – reflects a changing approach to rehabilitation across the decades

Sowing seeds for stronger rehabilitation

Improving land management over time

Our approach to rehabilitation has changed over the years. And we haven’t always got it right.

In past decades, mined land was often rehabilitated with commercial purposes in mind. In the 1960s, non-native species like gamba grass were introduced to Weipa. Intended as commercial farms and grazing lands, they have now become invasive weeds in the area – an issue we are managing carefully.

Today, we work with communities to understand the significance of the biodiversity and cultural and natural heritage of environments we operate in. We’re always learning, improving, and finding better ways to curb introduced pests. And as we do, we’re also striving to work with local communities to implement best-practice rehabilitation from the very start of our operations.

  • Weipa seed planting
    Weipa's environmental team hand-plant native seeds in a newly ploughed section of the rehabilitated land
  • Weipa seeds close up
    We're working with Traditional Owners and the community at Weipa to collect native seeds to rehabilitate our bauxite mine with local species
  • Weipa rehab sign
    Rehabilitated sections of site are marked with a sign showing the year they were planted - this section has been established since 1988
  • Weipa Traditional Owners
    Traditional Owners and Seed Collection Project community participants Anna and Gordon on Country at Weipa

Since the early 2000s, we’ve been working closely with Traditional Owners and local Aboriginal people, who have been generously sharing their knowledge and experience with us.

Together, we’re now rehabilitating mined land with culturally significant species of native plants, using seeds collected by the community themselves, which Traditional Owners use for food, medicines, and ceremonial purposes.

As they work, seed collectors earn an income and pass their knowledge on to the next generation. We also train school-leaver Traditional Owners while mixing and planting seeds, giving them paid, hands-on land-management skills while they learn to care for their Country in future.

This is now how we approach all our land management practices at Weipa. We’re constantly improving our processes as we learn more from the Traditional Owners, and how the seeds themselves propagate and establish.

As we visited the site to see the impact of the project so far, Traditional Owner Grace and Rehabilitation and Closure Advisor Anna reflected on their experiences working on the community seed collection project so far.


Traditional Owner and Elder of Thanakwith Country (where our Weipa mine operates)

“We are collecting seeds. Because it’s good for ourselves, and for our Country.

At first I thought it was a waste of time. But one of the Elders who helped start the project came down to my house. I had a big tree growing next to my house, and she said, “Come on, can I get this tree down and pull all the seeds out?”

And I said, “Yeah, what for?”

She said, “Well, see, for the seeds. I want to put them back on Country.”

So I helped her from there. And now I talk to all my young ones. We try and get them involved, and we tell them we're not doing it just for the money. We're doing it to put trees back on Country.

We don't want introduced trees to come over from other places. That's why I always say to Rio Tinto, “Please let us pick the trees.” We know that it won't grow the same as it was, but we want our trees that have been taken off. Because we use them for our bush medicines, our calendars, and if we get lost in the bush, we know which fruit trees we can eat to survive. And trees give us water too – we know we can find water with them, even in the pandanus, just dig up a little hole on the side of the root.

You don't know how happy I am to see all these trees growing back. I know it won't be the same. But when I went out a couple of years back, I cried, because it was the handiwork of our Elders that have gone. And the trees are growing really nice now.

I’m really proud of that.”

Grace, Traditional Owner and Elder of Thanakwith Country (where our Weipa mine operates)


Rehabilitation and Closure Advisor, Weipa operations

“I've lived in Weipa nearly my whole life. So rehabilitation is very important to me and many others who have lived in Weipa for so long. We need to make sure that we’re taking care of the landscape for generations to come.

Having Traditional Owners like Gracie involved in the community seed collection program is vital. They can pass on their knowledge about how to collect particular seed species, and why they’re culturally significant to them.

Our target seed mix that we use in rehabilitation has evolved over the years. We’ve refined it in consultation with Traditional Owners to make sure that we’re returning the right species of plants to the right part of Country.

Once the community collects the seed and sells it to us, we dry and store it, ready for rehabilitation season. Then, we either propagate culturally significant species in the nursery, or mix it with a bulking agent like sand, ready for tractor broadcast seeding. We also hand-plant some seeds that are too big to fit through the tractor spreader.

It's important for the Traditional Owners to feel confident the right plant species are coming back in the rehabilitation so there's medicinal value, there's a food source, and it encourages animals to return.

Animals are hugely significant to the Traditional Owners, and to encourage biodiversity and long-term sustainability. We’ve been excited to see animals returning to some of the rehabilitated areas already – plenty of skinks and goannas, tree-dwelling mammals like possums, and lots of birds like kingfishers, which have started nesting in the wetlands.

Above all, our team prides ourselves on having the Traditional Owners come and see the species of seed that they’ve collected now thriving in the rehabilitated land.

When we hear them say their ancestors would be happy that Country has been returned to this landscape, that’s probably the highest accolade we could receive – it makes me feel incredibly proud.

And I’d love to be able to bring my own kids back our here and show them how we contributed to this rehabilitation, and that an area that was once mined is now beautiful bushland.”

Anna, Rehabilitation and Closure Advisor, Weipa operations

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