Overview of International Mine Closure Guidelines

Author(s): 
Dawn Garcia
Date: 
Saturday, September 20, 2008
First presented: 
AIPG-AHS-3rd IPGC 2008 Symposium
Type: 
Published paper
Category: 
Environmental/Social

The mining industry has learned that plans for closure of mine and plant facilities, plus post-closure use of the land, must be presented to stakeholders as part of a successful planning process and to obtain the “social license” from the community. Historic mining operations that were abandoned without closure methods that mitigated physical and environmental impacts have negatively influenced the ability of mining firms to obtain a social license. The perception that a new modern mine will create the same impacts during operation and at closure as abandoned historic operations must be overcome during the initial steps of an exploration program. The closure planning begins during project conception.

Mining companies typically conduct exploration projects in far-reaching corners of the globe, in countries with varying governmental regulations and standards for mine closure. What guidelines should be considered as basic references for a closure plan for operations in any country? In the absence of well-defined closure regulations, companies may choose to use closure guidance from international sources such as the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, as well as prominent national and state or province specific legislation. Corporations can compare published guidance documents to develop a “baseline” list of closure elements, and subsequently use a risk-based corporate analysis to refine the closure approach.

The most elementary goal of closure is to minimize future environmental impacts from mining activities and to reduce future financial risk to the company’s shareholders. All aspects of the environment, such as soil, water, air, and communities, are considered during closure planning. National and local legislation may provide specific closure design requirements and regulatory standards for soil and groundwater. A risk-based strategy also considers the potential future risks and how much risk the company is willing to incur. Risks can be reduced by removal of impacted materials or by in-place remedial closure methods. The long-term post-closure care and maintenance, especially those associated with impacts from closed facilities, need to be considered in the closure strategy and demonstration of responsibility for a social license.

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