The social aspects of mine closure: a global literature review

Nicholas Bainton and Sarah Holcombe

This paper provides an overview of the publicly available literature on the social aspects of mine closure. We examine the themes that have been the focus of both industry and research attention. This then enables a gap analysis and suggestions as to future research priorities.

The social dimensions of resource extraction have always presented a major challenge for the extractive industries. These dimensions include social and economic impacts, human rights, gender considerations, cultural heritage and human development, among others. These challenges and risks are particularly acute towards the end of the project life-cycle when multiple pressures align. These include financial constraints as production rates decline, unfulfilled socio-economic development expectations, and increased complexity surrounding legacy issues, to name but a few. Mine closures can, therefore, have significant adverse effects on local economies, contribute to impoverishment, trigger the loss of key services, and lead to out-migration. Poorly managed closure processes exacerbate these impacts and can damage corporate reputations, where operators are held responsible for the impacts that they have left behind.

It is increasingly the case that stakeholders expect mining operators to proactively manage the multidimensional impacts of closure, just as they would manage impacts at other stages of mine life. There is a significant need to better understand the social aspects of mine closure because, to borrow the title of a recent World Bank mining report, ‘it’s not over when it’s over’.

The publicly available literature tends to focus on two broad areas, which we have identified as ‘process and procedural themes’ and ‘topical issues’. The former includes integration and sustainability; stakeholder engagement; baselines, risks and impact assessments, and; governance processes and the state. The latter includes housing and town normalisation; infrastructure and service provision; economic linkages and transitions; Indigenous engagement in post-mining land use; local level agreements with communities and affected land-holders, and; mining infrastructure as cultural heritage. We provide a synopsis of the literature for each of these themes.

Bainton, N.A. & S. Holcombe. (2018). The Social Aspects of Mine Closure: A Global Literature Review. Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland: Brisbane.

The social aspects of mine closure: a global literature review