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Glencore's integrated approach to closure governance at its Australian coal operations reduces closure liabilities

5 November 2020

Closure governance is a critical element to successful mine closure, underpinning the planning and execution of the closure process. ICMM's 'Integrated Mine Closure: Good Practice Guide' requires companies to have an overarching approach to closure governance to ensure the effective allocation of resources to closure planning at both site and corporate level.

Effective closure governance will impact every aspect of closure planning and relates directly to the process of decision-making and the relationships of those involved in solving the collective closure challenges.

In ICMM member Glencore’s case, its governance approach for effective closure planning – implemented across Australian coal operations – optimised integration of closure into business planning and helped to reduce closure liabilities.

In 2019, Glencore’s Australian coal operations completed ‘progressive closure’ of more than 1,300 hectares of mined land, the fourth successive year in achieving the ambitious target of rehabilitating more than 1,000 ha per year. Progressive closure – implementing closure activities during the operating life of a mine – is an important element of ICMM’s closure guidance as it provides opportunities to test and demonstrate the effectiveness of closure activities, validate success criteria and build trust with communities and the regulators.

The key to these strong results lies in a shift in focus that began in 2010, when the company introduced a more systematic approach to rehabilitation as a key component of this process.

Approach to rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is the process of minimising environmental impacts and restoring or enhancing the landscape following mining operations. Since 2010, Glencore has set and achieved more challenging rehabilitation targets, helped some sites address rehabilitation backlogs and created a process to measure progress towards rehabilitation goals.

Glencore Coal’s Land & Property Manager, Nigel Charnock, explains how they’ve approached this: “Planning for rehabilitation and closure at all Glencore operations starts as early in the mine life as possible; with our contemporary mines this takes place before first coal is mined. Rehabilitation is then scheduled into annual and short-term (daily) mine plans to ensure the work is adequately resourced, budgeted and delivered as part of ongoing mining operations.”

Each of Glencore’s sites is required to prepare an Annual Rehabilitation and Closure Plan (ARCP) as part of the budget cycle to allow for effective planning. The plans go beyond any regulatory requirement and aim to ensure that at all sites the active mining footprint is minimised. These annual plans include targeted areas for disturbance, shaping and seeding for the budget year ahead, as well as forecasts for rehabilitation across the operating life of the mine to minimise the work that needs to be done once mining has ended.

“It’s not just about quantity,” says Nigel, “Our site rehabilitation has to be quality as well; that is, capable of meeting an agreed end land use, as is the case with those mines that have achieved Government sign-off to date.” 

Once mining has finished, land is returned to either self-sustaining native ecosystems, open woodland, agricultural use or other suitable purposes that meet requirements agreed between Glencore, Government and local communities.

To implement these ARCPs, an integrated approach involving mine planning, production and rehabilitation functions is required so that closure work can be incorporated as far as is practical into the day-to-day operation of the mine, even if the mine’s actual closure is still decades away.

While machinery movement is underway, it provides an opportunity to integrate any selective material handling requirements and final landform goal increments within the short-range earthmoving equipment forecasts of mine schedulers. It means efficient utilisation of the mining fleet for bulk shaping works and the most cost-effective rehabilitation outcome.

Measuring performance

Rehabilitation and closure forms an important part of a mine’s daily planning. Delivery of rehabilitation is measured against a number of checks and balances in internal reporting that aim to drive strong performance and continual improvement in rehabilitation. One of the strongest of these are key performance indicators (KPIs) that have been developed and form a part of each site’s performance incentive scheme to help facilitate the successful integration of:

  • Planning (integration, resourcing, scheduling).
  • Progress (focusses on completing areas against a quantitative target).
  • Performance (quality of work completed, monitoring and maintenance).
  • Reporting (accuracy and timeliness).

Glencore’s KPIs tie rehabilitation performance and the successful integration of closure into bonus allocations for senior management, mine managers, mine planners, mine production employees and environmental personnel.

The development of a Rehabilitation Report Card has also been instrumental in assisting assessment of the status of any rehabilitation area – and collectively all rehabilitation work implemented at that mine, the state or combined Australian Coal business – against set rehabilitation success criteria. The Report Card is a standardised rehabilitation monitoring process and data analysis tool that can objectively identify the status of any rehabilitation areas in the form of a coloured map to show how well rehabilitation areas are performing against agreed success criteria, targeting the agreed post-mining land use.

Example of a Report Card for Glencore’s Rolleston mine
The company developed the Rehabilitation Report Card with the assistance of the University of Queensland’s Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation (SMI-CMLR). 

Glencore Coal’s Environment and Community Manager for Queensland operations, Pieter Swart, explains: “This translates complex rehabilitation monitoring data into an easily understandable tool, and assists the mine rehabilitation specialists to plan, budget and explain to other stakeholders the results from this monitoring.”

The Rehabilitation Report Card process is used by all of Glencore’s coal operations in Queensland and is currently being rolled out to mines in New South Wales as well. One of the key benefits is that all operations follow a standardised, repeatable process. It also removes measurement bias, delivering a robust process with scientific rigour to stand up to future scrutiny.

By embracing a more systematic and integrated approach to rehabilitation and closure planning and delivery, a number of Glencore’s sites are already providing benchmark results with their rehabilitation.

A full report on Glencore’s rehabilitation approach and results is available here: http://www.glencore.com.au/en/who-we-are/energy-products/Documents/GCAA_Rehabilitation-Info.pdf