Mine closure and social performance: An industry discussion paper

John Owen and Deanna Kemp

This discussion paper is about the social aspects of mine closure. Mine closure can be understood as a form of ‘industrial transformation’. The ideas and debates surrounding industrial transformation are by no means new. Industrial regions, centres or hubs are generative; they are full of promise, and have for the last two hundred years, been a cornerstone of worldwide economic growth. However, these same localities can also experience severe disruption, sometimes resulting in long term decline, when technologies, markets and/or business models change. Economists, historians and geographers have documented the ups and downs of industrial transformations going back to the early periods of manufacturing in the 17th and 18th centuries. Twentieth century industrial history alone has witnessed the emergence and disappearance, not only of individual companies, but of entire sectors. To remain at the forefront of economic competitiveness, industrialists must innovate through new products and technologies or risk the prospect of becoming obsolete. As modes of operating become outdated, the ability to transform business practices becomes a key determinant in an industry’s success or failure. Industrial complexes, particularly those founded on natural resources, inevitably come to an end. The mining industry, in extracting and processing mineral resources on a site-by-site basis, has assets that ultimately reach a point where the resource has been depleted to a point where it is no longer economically viable to continue mining that resource. The narrative told in the global mining industry is of economic uplift and prosperity through the construction and operational phases of mine life, contractions at project closure and relinquishment.

In this discussion paper we focus on a set of questions relating to transformations at the end of mine life, namely:
• What happens when major mining projects come to the end of their economic life?
• How are responsibilities for end of life planned and distributed among stakeholders?
• What does industrial transformation mean, for different stakeholders, at closure?

Owen, J. R. & Kemp, D. (2018). Mine closure and social performance: An industry discussion paper. Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland: Brisbane.

Mine closure and social performance: An industry discussion paper