Mining money brings tech boost to buffel battle

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The AW Landscape Board has purchased new tech with funds from a donation from BHP.

Mining money brings tech boost to buffel battle

The battle against the spread of the ecological transformer weed buffel grass across the southern Great Victoria Desert has been boosted with Alinytjara Wiluṟara Landscape Board’s (AWLB) investment in new technology, thanks to an $82,000 donation from BHP’s Community Donation Program.

The funds have allowed the AWLB to purchase a specialised drone, 10 high-definition 4G-enabled cameras, two remote area weather monitoring stations and tablet devices for data mapping.

“This is a foundational arsenal of technology that will help us in the fight against buffel grass,” says AWLB General Manager, Kim Krebs. “It’s impossible for our teams to constantly be on-ground monitoring and managing infestations across this vast area, so having use of this new equipment will most certainly enable us to be more effective.”

Buffel grass is an introduced tussock grass that is posing an existential threat to arid ecosystems across Australia. It is fast-growing, outcompetes native grasses and shrubs, and hampers the movement of animal species. It burns hotter than native vegetation, killing larger shrubs and trees, and regenerates more quickly after fire events, creating a monoculture that decimates natural ecosystems and damages Aboriginal cultural sites.

Buffel grass was declared a weed in South Australia in 2015 and the AWLB and BHP have been proactive in managing the threat. While AWLB’s efforts have focussed on the southern section of the Great Victoria Desert, BHP has been monitoring and eradicating buffel grass around Roxby Downs since 2000.

“The Alinytjara Wiluṟara Landscape Board leads the field when it comes to tackling buffel grass,” says Kimberley Solly, Principal Biodiversity at BHP. “Although we don’t operate within their region, we understand the scale of the threat and how a coordinated approach could create better impact. Currently, BHP manages existing roads and tracks relating to our operations. As off-road driving contributes to the spread of buffel seeds, it’s fantastic to contribute to new ways of detecting infestations. Providing funding for this work is part of a bigger picture at BHP, as we move our focus from a no-net-impact approach to a nature positive outcome.”

AWLB is leading a multi-agency taskforce against buffel grass in the southern Great Victoria Desert, partnering with neighbouring landscape boards South Australian Arid Lands, Eyre Peninsula, and Northern and Yorke, along with Indigenous ranger teams and other stakeholders to keep the weed at bay.

“In addition to employing new staff dedicated to buffel grass control, we’re collaborating with our neighbouring landscape boards and regional partners to deal with this insidious threat to our environment,” says Kim Krebs. “This new technology adds a powerful string to our bow and our team is looking forward to seeing the on-ground benefits it will provide. It’s encouraging to receive this support from BHP. We hope that other mining operations will be inspired to recognise the significance of looking after Country more broadly and add their support to keeping it healthy.”

Mining money brings tech boost to buffel battle

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