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Former mining engineer Peter Lelievre is used to taking resources out of the ground. These days it's not minerals, though, but unwanted plants and trees. 

A year after being laid off from Rio Tinto in the Hunter Valley, the former BHP and OZ Minerals worker is forging ahead with Adelaide Plant Recovery, a niche business that collects, restores and on-sells established plants from building sites and private properties.

He says working as a geotechnical engineer and later a mining engineer has equipped him with essential skills in running his own business, from people management through to working through complicated calculations and processes needed to move established trees up to seven metres tall.

"Our business has been developed using the philosophy and lean methodology gained from low-cost mining," he says.

"Twelve years in mining also taught me to take emotions out of decision making. It's not about whether I like a plant. It's whether I can move it, restore it and sell it for a profit."

After he lost his job with Rio Tinto, Peter knew it was time to move home to Adelaide. He'd been doing fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) for nine of his 12 years in mining, but with plans to start a family, he and his wife Judith decided it was time to try something new.

They initially took time out to renovate their home and travel, before Peter spent six months studying how to be a butcher at TAFE.

"I now know every cut of meat there is, but my real passion is in plants.

"I grew up spending time in the garden with my grandparents and have actually been recovering plants as a hobby for about 10 years, so when a friend asked me to help him remove a large cycad and source some agapanthus for his new garden, I realised it was exactly what I wanted to do." 

From a few plants initially, he's now got more than 150 large feature plants in stock at Athol Park, ranging from seven-metre frangipanis, established fruit trees and large cycads and palms. At his second nursery in Summertown in the Adelaide Hills, Peter has collected more than 50,000 smaller plants and bulbs including agapanthus. He's employing casual workers and increasing his machinery to cope with increasingly large trees.

With widespread job losses across the mining sector and speculation about another raft of lay-offs to come, Peter offers a reassuring message that there is life after mining.

"There's definitely a period of readjustment, but on the plus side I can choose which hours I work now that I'm my own boss," he says. "In my last job in the Hunter I was working up to 80 hours a week - I'm still always available by phone but this is just so much more flexible.

"I'd encourage others to follow their passion, especially if they've been able to save up some cash in mining to set themselves up. Start small and work your way up."

For more information or to check out his products, call 0419 537 679 or click here to visit his Facebook page.