Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and Industry, Richard Marles launched a $2.4 million research centre in March that will investigate ways to contain potentially hazardous leaks from mine waste, domestic tips, tank farms and dams.
The new Geosynthetic Centre of Excellence in Molendinar, south Queensland, will also be used to test and develop coastal protection products, which are in demand along the Queensland coast, nationally and internationally.
Australian manufacturer Geofabrics Australasia has privately funded the centre, which will test the chemical reactivity, UV resistance and friction properties of materials used to line waste facilities.
Geofabrics Australasia managing director, Brendan Swifte said the centre was part of a $6 million investment in research and development across the business, which manufactures a range of state-of-the-art products including a world-first geosynthetic clay liner that is resistant to high pH solutions, such as those found in the mining industry.
“This is a world class R&D laboratory that will improve our understanding of geosynthetics and their performance in critical applications,” Mr Swifte said.
“This was driven by the Australian engineering industry searching for answers to questions relating to geosynthetic performance that were not able to be tested in the traditional quality assurance laboratories.”
The facility is open to regulators, consulting engineers, contractors and academics to carry out application-based research and testing to develop site-specific solutions. The research program will be relevant for the civil engineering, mining and construction industries.
“In the past, we had to export some testing to specialist laboratories in the United States, which was expensive, slow and difficult because we had to export hazardous liquors for testing,” Mr Swifte said.
“The Centre of Excellence means we can work locally with clients who want to develop responsible, evidence-based solutions for their particular sites. That means better outcomes for our customers, and the environment.”
The centre houses equipment that is the first of its kind in Australia, including a 300 mm x 300 mm shear box, transmissivity apparatus and high pressure liner testing apparatus, and will soon offer a geosynthetic clay liner overlap apparatus. It is also equipped with flexible wall permeameters for use with aggressive liquors, 50 kN Instron tensile apparatus, large volume screw compressor, dropcone apparatus, microscope and UV equipment.
Mr Swifte said Geofabrics had worked with Monash University, University of SA, the National Marine Science Centre, Manly Water Research Laboratory and the University of Wisconsin.
Federal government policies including the Strategic Investment Program grants, the Researcher in Business program, and tax incentives for R&D expenditure helped to drive the firm’s innovation.
He hoped the centre would promote further local and international collaboration.
“This innovation will not only drive our business in a competitive global market, it will also foster Australian academic expertise in this critical field and provide opportunities for students.”