Mine closure - misplaced planning priorities

D. Limpitlaw and P. Mitchell

Mines, unlike many other industrial activities, pass through distinct lifecycle phases from exploration and prefeasibility through operations to closure and rehabilitation. Closure assumptions have become an integral part of the planning for closure process. Good practice requires closure planning for each lifecycle phase, with a growing focus on planning from the very earlierst stages of project development. Each phase is characterised by specialist groups of people - starting with optimistic exploration geologists, focussed project managers for the construction phase and systems-orientated mining and process engineers for the operational phase. All of these  have some deliberate or unintentional role to play in planning for closure. Communities and other stakeholders in mining operations also change their expectations of closure planning as the mine matures. Initially, many stakeholders struggle to come to terms with the high failure rate of exploration projects and local entrepreneurs may overextend themselves in the expectation of economic expansion accompanying mine development. Later, communities may become unwittingly dependent on services that are only sustainable while the mine is in operation (like a cellular phone tower in a rural area) and may mistake closure planning and consultation for opportunities to increase their dependence on the mine (by requesting additional employment or infrastructure development, for example). Examples are drawn largely from the authors' experience in southern and central Africa are used to illustrate these misplaced planning priorities and the related consequences. The paper concludes with suggestions for improving closure planning efficacy across the mining lifecycle and optimising inputs from the many disciplines involved directly and indirectly in the process.

Limpitlaw, D. & Mitchell, P. (2013). Mine closure - misplaced planning priorities. In AB Fourie & M Tibbett (Eds.), Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Mine Closure. Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Cornwall (pp. 3-13).

Conference paper
Closure, Other
Centre for Sustainability in Mining and Industry (University of Witwatersrand), Green Horizons Environmental Consultants
Mine closure - misplaced planning priorities