Former mining areas are replanted at Anglo American's Barro Alto nickel mine in Brazil. Image: Anglo American
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Succession planning for mine sites

Five articles on best practice in the rehabilitation and closure of mine sites

Closure. I would argue that, in this day and age, this is the wrong term to apply to mining assets that are nearing the end of their economic life. Instead, it might be more fitting to look at the process as succession planning; a transition of land from one purpose or custodian to the next.

Mines can and, in many cases, should, provide an ongoing place of work or income for stakeholders long after extraction ceases. They may not be generating a mineral-based source of revenue, but that doesn’t mean that they are no longer valuable.

Given the wet tailings storage practices most mines currently employ, I wonder if it’s possible to permanently ‘close’ a mine at all…? Technically, monitoring and sampling must go on at these facilities indefinitely after closure (well, they should at responsibly managed sites anyway).

If a mining company must spend money to maintain its assets post-extraction, then surely it would make more sense to repurpose them and generate a secondary source of income? Give them another lease of life. Sell them and diversify their company’s business model… But I digress.

Regardless of whether a mining company intends to repurpose an asset after closure, it’s incredibly important that they implement best practices to minimise the ongoing impacts of extraction and progressively rehabilitate the land as operations advance.

Below are a selection of articles and webinars as further ‘reading’ on this topic…

  1. Prospecting Purpose, June 2021. Shifting from closure to transition Host Liz Freele and environmental and mine closure specialist, Peter Whitbread-Abrutat, explore the move from mine closure to mine transition and why it’s so important that the latter becomes the norm.
  2. SRK, 2021. Beginning at the End: How Can We Optimize the Socioeconomic Legacy of Mine Closure? An excellent panel discussion which took place as part of the latest Canadian Mining Symposium. SRK’s Jeff Parshley led the debate on the aforementioned question, along with representatives from Centerra Gold, Gold Fields and the World Bank.
  3. Turner & Townsend, March 2020. Mine closure in Canada: Giving back a healthy ecosystem to future generations T&T directors, Gonzalo Rosa and Troy Dunow, explain how mine closure and decommissioning projects provide a unique opportunity for Canadian mining companies to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by closing down operations with the same degree of rigour as daily mining. operations
  4. GHD, 2020. The disconnect between mine closure planning and execution Erich Heymann looks at five of the most common challenges in achieving proper mine closure
  5. Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, 2020. Integrated mine closure planning: A rapid scan of innovations in corporate practice Want to know where the industry’s at? Dr Sandy Worden asked seven leading miners about their closure practices and social performance.

And of course, the ICMM has plenty of resources and tools for companies looking to up their game around mine closure planning…

Integrated mine closure graphic, ICMM 2021

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