The profile of mine rehabilitation and closure continues to gain momentum in Australia, with an increasing focus by governments, industry and the broader community on a range of mine closure related topics. Despite decades of mine closure research and rehabilitation activities, there are limited examples within Australia of mining operations closing successfully and allowing relinquishment of mine tenure. A review of policy across Australia demonstrates that no clear pathway to relinquishment exists within mine closure legislation. While policy gaps contribute to the limited examples of successful relinquishment, defined in this paper as the transfer of liability, there are a number of additional roadblocks. A major one being the reality of residual risk and liability existing after a mine has been successfully closed. Closing a mine is an investment decision, with mining executives and boards requiring certainty of process and outcome to invest in closure. Moving forward government, industry and the community need to understand and accept that residual risk and liability will exist in successfully closed post-mined land. To ensure that mining is a temporary land use, mechanisms for improving relinquishment outcomes, explored in this paper, and innovative thinking around post-mining land uses must also be employed. This paper presents approaches to relinquishment, including risk and liability determination and post-closure funding arrangements throughout the mining lifecycle. When coupled with a defined regulatory process for relinquishment, these can drive better mine closure outcomes.
Tiemann, C. D., McDonald, M. C., Middle, G. & Dixon, K. W. (2019). Mine relinquishment policy in Australia. In A. B. Fourie & M. Tibbett (Eds.), Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth (pp. 1451-1460).