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Mine Closure Checklist for Governments: Essential policy elements for good governance

May 9, 2019

The Mine Closure Checklist for Governments is now available online in four languages: English, French, Mandarin and Spanish. The Checklist was developed by the APEC Mining Task Force, in a program coordinated by Natural Resources Canada, with development carried out by Golder Associates. The preparation of the Checklist involved mine closure practitioners globally, including government, industry, non-government organization (NGO) representatives, and IGF among others. The Checklist particularly advises government policies with respect to mine closure and how these policies should be implemented and sustained (including administration and governance).

The intended audience for this Checklist is both technical and non-technical government members and advisers with an interest in mine closure. This includes both policy developers and policy implementers. As part of the IGF’s partnership with the APEC Mining Task Force it recently conducted a pilot implementation of the Checklist with the Government of Papua New Guinea.

The global history of abandoned sites and their consequences has resulted in the rise of regulations intended to prevent abandonment and ensure that mine sites are closed in a safe and sustainable manner. The global development of these regulations has been uneven, with some jurisdictions still having little or no regulation in the matter, while others possess a robust governance framework.

The objective of the Mine Closure Checklist for Governments to provide policy makers globally with the essential elements of a successful mine closure governance framework based on leading international guidelines and standards, as well as international experience. This Checklist is designed to provide a logical, sequential series of steps that will allow policy makers to identify gaps in their current mine closure framework and identify how to address those gaps.

A clear, effective mine closure framework will help protect the environment and interests of the community and will also encourage the benefits that are brought by investment and development of mining opportunities. For policy makers, there is no single jurisdiction in the world that can be looked at as the ideal model for mine closure policy. Many of the developed nations have relatively advanced closure policies, which have been created assuming the existence of a large and well-funded regulatory oversight body. This assumption may not apply in the developing world. The geographic size and diversity of the jurisdiction also shapes the development of policy.

Closure policy for some smaller nations may contain prescriptive elements that are only applicable within a relatively limited climatic or geographical zone. As there is no single model to follow, there is a need for clear guidance on what is required in closure policy. History shows that in the absence of policy there can be lasting economic, environmental and social costs, especially for local communities, including women, who are often most vulnerable to the consequences of a mine closure. Poor policy that is not in line with the best international practices can have unintended consequences, such as stifling innovative solutions, or discouraging well-managed mining projects that can bring benefits such as investment and economic development.

Mine closure should be a process, and the design of mining projects should incorporate design for closure from the outset, with the closure aspect reviewed and approved by the appropriate regulatory authority. Appropriate closure can result in mines becoming engines for development beyond their own life, through a process that minimizes adverse impacts and maximizes after-use benefits in the long term.