Mineral resources are finite, so closure of mining operations is inevitable. Planning for closure needs to be a core business practice of mining companies, and, ideally, considered in the design phase of an operation. This should better minimise adverse impacts and maximise beneficial outcomes for all stakeholders.
Experience shows that closure is as much a managerial issue now as a technical one. It requires a continual testing of assumptions and recommendations to match evolving social, economic and environmental conditions and expectations.
Responsible mine closure requires the active participation of local communities in planning and implementation of actions, so that lasting benefits can be recognised. This integrated approach also has clear benefits for the mining company too.
- Closure decisions will be better supported by stakeholders.
- Planning for closure will become easier to manage.
- Potential problems will be identified in a timely manner.
- The accuracy of closure cost estimates will be improved and there will be a greater chance of adequate funding for closure.
- The risk of regulatory non-compliance will be minimised, and potential liabilities reduced.
The importance of planning
Proper closure implementation activities may take several years - and for facilities with short lives (eg five to seven years), a detailed closure plan needs to be in place very early. For facilities with longer lives, the detailed closure plan may develop through several iterations.
Thus closure planning should be incorporated into the early stages of project development (nominally pre-feasibility and feasibility) and operation. The mining company should then look to collate the goals and views of various stakeholders, including the project owner, local community, government, and non-governmental organisations to inform closure and post-closure goals. With resulting plans being transparent and easily communicable to all stakeholders.
These plans should however, not remain fixed where the expectations of the community, or other stakeholders, change during lifetime of the mine. This is particularly pertinent for operations that have a lifespan that crosses generations or have mine plans changed.
This integrated preparation allows for an effective, and sensitive, transition from operation to closure. And at a minimum, establishes the elements required for lasting community benefit. In support of this, ICMM has produced guidance for the scoping, implementing, reviewing and adjusting of structured and sustainable closure plans, to ultimately improve the social and economic legacy of mining and metals activities.
Download the Planning for integrated mine closure toolkit.