The inevitable closure and remediation phase of a mine’s lifecycle routinely causes negative socio-economic and environmental impacts for nearby communities. While closure planning is meant to ensure post-closure human and environmental safety, it tends to favour short-term technical fixes over longer-term socio-economic, cultural,and ecological considerations. For mines operating on Indigenous territories, where communities have complex and nuanced connections to land and varying levels of jurisdiction, these issues are further exacerbated by the exclusion of Indigenous voices from planning and decision-making. This research employed a qualitative document analysis of ten mine closure plans for mines in Northern Canada that are still operational to understand how the industry is actively planning for the closure and remediation of their sites. In particular, this work asks whether or not mine companies are incorporating Indigenous Knowledge into their mine closure plans, and how they are addressing the complex socio-economic aspects of closure. This analysis showed that mine closure plans across Northern Canada inconsistently apply Indigenous Knowledge and expertise, and the methods used for community consultation in mine closure planning are left vague. While differences in policy between Northern territories and regions account for some of these inconsistencies, a company’s willingness to work beyond baseline requirements imposed by governments is also an important factor. Additionally, these closure plans further demonstrate that the industry prioritizes technical aspects of mine closure over the social, cultural, economic, and ecological. For mine closure to be successful in a Northern context it must incorporate community expertise, emerge from the values and priorities of the Indigenous peoples whose lands mines are operating on, and account for a wider scope of social, economic, and cultural impacts.
Monosky, M. & and Keeling, A. (2021). Planning for social and community-engaged closure: A comparison of mine closure plans from Canada’s territorial and provincial North, Journal of Environmental Management, 277. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2020.111324