Mining with the end in mind: Landform design for sustainable mining

Landform Design Institute

Since its inception, the discipline of landform design has helped mines, regulators, Indigenous peoples and local communities collaborate on the creation of mining landforms and landscapes that reliably and economically meet agreed-upon goals and objectives. It is becoming an essential component of successful reclamation, sustainable mining, and global sustainable development. This integrated and multidisciplinary approach to designing and reclaiming mining landscapes – or mining with the end in mind — is progressing on numerous independent fronts around the world. While useful direction on what needs to be done and why is widely available, little practical guidance is available on just how to do it, and no central repository exists of useful and accessible supportive documents and illustrative case histories. Mining with the end in mind means cultivating a shared vision for the reclaimed landforms and landscapes that remain long after mining has finished and the extracted resources consumed.

The Landform Design Institute (LDI) was founded in 2019 to formally develop and globalize this new discipline of landform design and to support an international community of landform design practitioners. Building on an initial 2002 survey of what was promised by mine reclamation versus what was delivered on the ground, and drawing on recent interviews and a high-level literature review, the Institute is completing a gap analysis in 2021 to identify ways to address the shortcomings of the status quo through the production of technical publications, including reports, databases, tools, training videos, and lectures.

In the course of the gap analysis, it became clear that to foster the global community of practitioners, we needed to improve the landform design framework and better define the language of the discipline. This position paper updates and refines dozens of definitions related to landform design and the concept of successful reclamation in an effort to provide a common vocabulary and process.

Building on the results of the gap analysis, the Institute has created a detailed five-year plan with three focus areas: developing how-to resources, providing education and training, and supporting the global landform design community. A pressing need exists to close the significant and ubiquitous gap between what mines are promising for their reclaimed landscapes and what is being delivered. From a financial point of view, all mines already focus on all phases of mining as part of their need to keep mines profitable and valuable to shareholders. The next step is to fully understand the requirements of post-mining land uses, how much it will actually cost, how that can be achieved through sound strategic and operational decision-making, and how to work collaboratively with all those affected.

Much comes down to integrating planning, design, and construction of mining landforms and landscapes — across spatial and time scales, across disciplines and communities, across the multitude of mining activities and teams, and across the financial system — to deliver financial returns to shareholders and society (through royalties, taxation, and employment) while creating safe, useful, and ecologically productive reclaimed mine land for all.

Landform Design Institute. (2021). Mining with the end in mind: Landform design for sustainable mining. Retrieved from

Landform Design Institute
Mining with the end in mind: Landform design for sustainable mining