Communities are generally considered to be largely passive victims of mine closure, losing access to employment, services and other resources when mining ceases. However, community members - especially those familiar with the mine site during its operational phase, can also pose a material risk to the success of ongoing rehabilitation and mine closure activities. In their search for income and economic opportunity during and after mine closure, knowledge of a site's waste disposal and salvage habits, and even 'high grading' during mining operations can lead to perceptions of residual 'hidden value' which community members will seek to access. This paper discusses the threats posed by activities such as trespassing, uncontrolled grazing, scavenging and illegal mining, to the success of long-term mine closure. Based upon recent case studies from a range of African operations, the paper explores how ignoring this human factor can lead to the promotion of theoretically sound closure techniques that prove inappropriate when applied in practice. Particular attention is paid to the challenge posted by illegal miners. It also seeks to draw some conclusions about the steps required to manage and mitigate the risks associated with the 'human factor' in rehabilitation and closure work over the long-term.
M. T. Reichardt and C. L. Reichardt (2007). Vandals or entrepreneurs? Acknowledging and managing the human factor during mine closure in the developing world context. In A.B. Fourie, M. Tibbett, & J. Wiertz (Eds.), Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Mine Closure. Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Santiago (pp. 145-152).