- Mine closure has become a core part of a much wider industry conversation around social responsibility, environmental stewardship and corporate governance
- A survey of mining leaders run with industry partners SRK Consulting and independent professional services company, Turner & Townsend, found that more than half of the 400 mining industry professionals regarded mine closure as ‘crucial’ for development planning, while a further 11% said it was a ‘rapidly growing concern’.
- Only 7% said mine closure planning was only a ‘secondary concern’.
- The biggest problem with closure stakeholder engagement is that mining companies usually do it later in the mine life
Closure plans must suit the terrainWhen we asked the experts for good examples of mine closures, responses included: Sullivan, the re-purposing of German coal mines into museums and recreational areas, and the re-purposing of a former Orano openpit uranium mine in South-Central France into a leisure centre with a fishing lake. Learn more about these 5 examples of extraordinary re-purposed mine sites. Parshley commented, “Post-mining land use doesn’t have to be something that generates income or revenue,” he said.
“The World Bank’s definition of a mine closure plan implies it has to have an economic benefit. But I would argue that if there really isn’t any viable, sustainable alternative to generate income for the site, then maybe just turning it back to a safe and stable environment where nature can re-establish itself is perfectly acceptable.”According to SRK Consulting, the process should take into account any achievable ideas put forward by stakeholders. “It may be that the stakeholders have a post-closure vision for a site that can provide future benefits for everyone,” Parshley said. “You may need to adjust the closure plan to help facilitate that. That’s where I see the true opportunity for collaboration in mine closure.” Once a closure plan has been formulated, it then becomes possible to hire the right people to carry it out. Based on her regular discussions with mining companies and suppliers, the ICMM’s Brock said companies were having no trouble attracting the right talent. Looking forward, she said closures would require the hiring of people from a range of disciplines. “A closure specialist could coordinate and be responsible for closure, but you still need inputs from a number of other relevant disciplines to be successful,” Brock said. “A number of these closed mines can be engines for development beyond their own life. In the next few years, there will be a big change in terms of talent because you’ll be looking for economists and people in finance and development, to look at what is feasible post-mining.” Learn more about CRC for Transformations in Mining Economies (CRC-TiME), a national and collaborative initiative to help the industry drive progressive rehabilitation, and enable effective closure and relinquishment of mine sites.
Learning from each otherThe one area of improvement all experts agreed on was the need to plan for mine closure as early as possible. Another important recommendation was to share information. “As closures become more prolific and companies like ourselves are able to analyse the numbers, cost bench-marking and best practices in closure will be possible,” Dunow said. “We along with partners like SRK have that data ready for application.” Brock suggested companies were overly protective of the tools they have developed in-house to deal with things like closure costs. She said this would need to change for the industry to truly move forward. “The next step is getting mining companies to share that more openly and share successes that others can learn from. They might not want to talk about it if it hasn’t been successful, but there are still things to learn.”
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