A wave of mine closures is looming. Over the next decade, at least 25 major mines in developing countries are scheduled for closure. How well these closures are handled has the potential to shape the global dialogue on the costs and benefits of mining – and shift it either way. Mine closure is an increasingly complex process, and given the concerns of all stakeholders regarding environmental, social, and economic impacts, best practice has long gone beyond technical solutions. Nowadays, a trilateral process of consultation and problem solving, involving mining companies, governments, and communities, is required for a mine to be closed successfully. In fact, to be fully effective, the process of planning for mine closure should start at the mine design stage. Proper mine closure can be the bridge to transfer capital extracted from mining to generations to come, thus achieving benefits for today’s mining communities and countries that will be sustainable in the future. Mining companies, mining communities, and governments now have the knowledge to ensure that economic development opportunities based on mining are not missed and that negative legacies are not left behind. But, to achieve this, early, concrete and proactive involvement is required:
- Unless mining companies take constructive action early on, they will be remembered for a legacy of negative environmental and social impacts and this reputation might increasingly threaten future mining operations elsewhere.
- Unless local communities are involved proactively, they will not be able to ensure that the benefits from mining will be sustainable for future generations.
- Unless governments provide legal frameworks and early planning and support to communities, governments will be left to manage large environmental and social problems.
Over time, mine closure will come to be seen not simply as the end of mining, but rather as one step in a larger process of environmental recovery for ecosystems and of social renewal for communities. These recovery processes will continue long after a particular mine ceases.
World Bank & IFC. (2002). It's not over when it's over: Mine closure around the world. Retrieved from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTOGMC/Resources/notoverwhenover.pdf