Optimisation of the mine closure process

David Laurence

The excitement and fanfare that surrounds the opening of a new mine is never present when it finally closes. Closure may be planned but most commonly, it is premature, occurring before ore (or coal) reserves are exhausted. The reasons why mines close are diverse and include economic, geological, geotechnical, regulatory, community and other pressures. Premature and planned mine closures can result in significant adverse impacts on the environment and community and need to be managed appropriately. The use of risk management techniques can help reduce these impacts. The closure risk model has significant potential as a tool for decision-makers to assess the major closure risks at individual mine sites in a structured, systematic manner both qualitatively and quantitatively. This, in turn, facilitates comparisons between the closure issues at a single site as well as between different mines. A team-based approach is essential to ensure that all of the risks are incorporated, and the use of an external facilitator, as is standard practice in risk assessments, helps to reduce subjective bias. The importance of community engagement during operation and the inevitable mine closure phases cannot be overstated. If ignored, an optimal closure outcome will not be achieved. The consequences of a poor consultation strategy are potentially severe in terms of community impacts. Mining companies that get it right will benefit from the support they receive from employees, landholders, local and state governments, and other stakeholders. Other benefits include significant cost savings and a competitive advantage for future exploration/mining activities. Even though closure issues are unique from mine-to-mine, it is possible to develop a series of principles to assist the company, government and community involved in the closure process to ensure maximum benefit for all parties involved.

Laurence, D. (2006). Optimisation of the mine closure process. Journal of Cleaner Production, 14, 285-298. doi: j.jclepro.2004.04.011

Journal article
Optimisation of the mine closure process