Social impacts of mine closure: Engaging employees and host communities in planning for closure

S. Costa

Planning for mine closure usually focuses on a detailed reclamation plan designed by experts to mitigate environmental impacts; however, less is known about the social aspects of mine closure and how to mitigate the socio-economic impacts of closing a mine. Industry best practices highlight the need to engage host communities in planning for mine closure, still there are limited case studies that show what works best to face the social challenges of closure. New Gold’s Cerro San Pedro Mine, located in Mexico has taken a participatory approach to define the company’s integrated closure strategy, engaging with key communities of interest to understand the social impacts of closure and find feasible economic alternatives for a local and regional longer-term development.  This paper provides an overview of the engagement process that the company undertook to discuss aspects of mine closure and the future without the mine with host communities and employees. The engagement process is part of a broader approach to integrated closure planning and was led by a reputable nongovernmental organisation specialised in creating spaces of dialogue and consensus-building. The process used both qualitative and quantitative methods. Findings of this engagement process revealed the specific challenges and opportunities to strengthen economic activities alternative to mining such as agriculture, tourism, and small business development; in addition to identifying potential partners. Outcomes of the engagement process may be summarised as: i) raising awareness and responsibility of mine closure, both environmental and social impacts, ii) building a common vision of the future without the mine, iii) reaching consensus among different communities of interest, enabling participation and ownership of a shared disposition that addresses social impacts of mine closure. Lessons learned include, among others, the relevance of engaging employees and communities, not only in implementing mine closure, but also in identifying social impacts of mine closure and building together a feasible sustainability path forward.

Costa, S. (2015). Social impacts of mine closure: Engaging employees and host communities in planning for closure. In Andy Fourie, Mark Tibbett, Les Sawatsky and Dirk Van Zyl, Proceedings of the Tenth International Seminar on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Vancouver (pp. 797-804).

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Conference paper
New Gold
Social impacts of mine closure: Engaging employees and host communities in planning for closure