It’s 2030, imagine if…

The toxic time bomb of coal ash dams in NSW has been defused, with the last tonne of ash being processed outside Lake Macquarie by the re.source business alliance. These world-first circular facilities have extracted and responsibly processed over 200 million tonnes of coal ash since the launch of the first one in 2024, manufacturing valuable materials such as high strength stainless steel and specialist concrete for infrastructure development and employing over 300 people from the region. In addition to these significant benefits, each facility’s business model locked in 5% of profits for an independent foundation controlled by the local community. Around Lake Macquarie these foundations have, to date, directed significant funds to First Nations regeneration projects, resulting in the return of strong squirrel glider communities to Awabakal Country.

Summary of solution

There are more than 200 million tonnes of coal‐ash stored in unlined dams around NSW, and each year roughly six million tonnes are added. This ash contains potentially hazardous material which in large quantities poses serious threats to surrounding waterways. By using a novel combination of established chemical processes and existing equipment from the mining and chemical industries, coal‐ash dams can be emptied and used to manufacture valuable environmentally safe products. This processes hazardous elements into environmentally safe products that have well‐established markets with large growth potential e.g. lithium batteries, greener aluminium or more sustainable construction materials.

This not only tackles a major environmental problem, it also creates jobs for the communities around coal‐fired power stations. This project establishes a for-purpose vehicle that funds community projects  with First Nations people, youth and women, ultimately circling wealth back into these communities. It enables communities to collaboratively articulate their priorities, develop their own local regeneration projects, and secure funding to successfully own these projects.

Why is this solution innovative

The project creates high quality jobs in communities around coal‐fired power stations, keeping well‐trained and highly remunerated workers in their communities in comparable jobs. It is also creating a blueprint for how commercial businesses can include the circularity of wealth into their model, by creating a for-purpose funding vehicle for community-led projects that is funded by profits from this project. The project directly addresses a key environmental legacy left by power stations, and empowers communities to be in control of their own regeneration by enabling their capacity to identify, develop and successfully run projects that help them and their environments heal.

This project can create employment opportunities for many working in the fossil fuel industry, and for surrounding First Nations communities