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Integrating closure into life of mine planning to achieve success criteria

6 August 2020

Integrating closure practices into life of mine planning is a key element of ICMMs 'Integrated Mine Closure: Good Practice Guide' and underpins the approach of designing and operating with closure in mind.

Achieving successful integration of closure into the operation relies on effective governance, stakeholders (including the workforce, community and government) understanding and contributing to the overall closure vision and ensuring there is a comprehensive closure plan presenting the main risks and opportunities to reduce closure liabilities. Final closure of the Newlands coal complex is expected to occur in the next few years, but Glencore has already undertaken extensive progressive closure of the site to world leading standards. 

Glencore’s Newlands coal complex is located in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, 33 km north west of the township of Glenden and 190 km west of Mackay. Surrounding land use is predominantly cattle grazing on native and improved pastureland.

Mining began at Newlands in 1983 and has expanded to include both open pit and underground operations at numerous sites across a mining lease area covering around 30,000 ha. Both thermal coal (commonly used in power generation) and metallurgical coal (commonly used for steel manufacturing) is produced at Newlands, which has an annual production capacity of approximately 11 million tonnes.

The closure vision for the site is to return the land to pre-mining condition, with a combination of native vegetation / habitat or grassland vegetation to support cattle grazing. Until then, Glencore has land management and rehabilitation requirements that aim to minimise the active mining footprint and to progressively close areas no longer required for mining. To date, 2,282 ha of land has been rehabilitated. This is managed through the implementation of the site’s Annual Rehabilitation and Closure Plan, which ensures sufficient budget and resources are allocated to conduct closure activities.

This strong focus on closure is driven by Senior Executives and cascades throughout the business, resulting in leading industry examples of successful rehabilitation. Newlands, for example, is the first coal mine in the Bowen Basin to achieve Government certification for successful rehabilitation of mine overburden dumps while still an operating mine. Glencore achieved this in June 2017 after meeting all criteria set out in the Queensland Government’s certification process. The criteria was to provide habitat suitable for flora and fauna with overarching objectives of being safe, stable, non-polluting and sustainable. Glencore achieved this on 73 ha of overburden (material that lies above a coal seam or other ore type), which had been progressively rehabilitated in the late 1990s.

The certification also followed collaborative work with Queensland Government agencies, the Queensland Resources Council and other resources companies to develop a technical process by which rehabilitation can be assessed and certified. Glencore are now using the key learnings from the process to identify additional opportunities for progressive closure across its other mine sites.