The Sustainable Minerals Institute’s Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) was engaged by the Social Aspects of Mine Closure Research Consortium to conduct a rapid scan of innovative corporate closure planning practice. The study aimed to identify novel approaches used by consortium member companies to integrate social dimensions into closure planning. Identifying these approaches promotes knowledge exchange between the companies, and provides direction for future research and innovation for mine closure performance.
All six consortium member companies participated in this study. The research team additionally engaged with Teck Resources. Study activities included 15-minute phone interviews with company personnel, a review of company documents relating to closure and social performance, and in-depth interviews.
We found that the seven companies are at various stages of integrating environmental, social and economic factors into planning (at all stages of the mine lifecycle). Anglo American, for example, has an integrated closure planning system that is being rolled out globally. Other companies are not yet at this stage.
Two basic approaches are being used to resource mine closure planning: (1) allocation of full-time personnel whose role is dedicated to closure planning (‘dedicated’), and (2) key personnel accommodating closure planning work within their broader roles and drawing on functional expertise on an ‘as needed’ basis (‘dispersed’). Some companies consider their resourcing to be a hybrid of these two approaches. Human resources are allocated at four different levels within businesses: at board level, within the corporate centre, in business units, and at operating sites.
Companies use a range of governance instruments for mine closure planning, including standards, strategies, plans, policies, guidance, systems, closure registers, post-closure visions and board oversight. Two companies (OceanaGold and Teck) are in the process of developing their governance instruments for closure planning. Most participating companies have adopted a risk-based approach to closure planning, with closure considered a material risk to the business. Generally, detailed planning occurs between two and five years from closure. There was general agreement among research participants that it was beneficial for companies to start preliminary closure planning at mine design (or earlier) to allow time to develop integrated knowledge and management systems for companies and their stakeholders.
There are indications that social dimensions are being integrated into mine closure planning. Innovative practices appear to be emerging, as highlighted by the three case study vignettes. The extent of integration across the seven participating companies could not be determined, however, as the study scope did not allow for a detailed investigation of the various organisational layers involved in closure planning processes. Comments from research participants raise questions about the priority some companies are giving to social dimensions compared with environmental aspects of mine closure.
Further investigation and in-depth analysis is recommended, including a series of detailed case studies prioritising mining operations that are within five years of closure. These case studies would illustrate how closure governance requirements affecting social risks and opportunities are interpreted in practice. They would provide a fuller account of innovative planning approaches, and deeper analysis of the catalysts and barriers to integrating social dimensions into mine closure planning.
Worden, S. (2020). Integrated mine closure planning: A rapid scan of innovative corporate practice. Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining. University of Queensland: Brisbane.