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Working Collaboratively for Solutions in Mine Closure

Posted by Matthew Bliss, Deputy Director

Working Collaboratively for Solutions in Mine Closure

A mining operation that is considered consistent with sustainable development is one whereby planning for closure is present during the entire operation of the mine. Because mines have a finite life span, it is important to ensure there is a plan for mine closure and post-mining transition once the economically viable products have been extracted.

It does not always happen that smoothly, though. There are instances where mine site closures happen quite suddenly, such as when market conditions change unfavourably for the extracted product. When the closure of a mine site is an unplanned, or even uncontrolled, process, it can have substantial negative impacts, including environmental degradation of water and soil and negative social impacts for nearby communities after the mine has closed.

Because of this, governments should provide regulatory frameworks to ensure that mine sites are closed safely and sustainably. One organization contributing to the development of essential elements of a successful mine closure framework is the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) with their Mine Closure Checklist for Governments.

“Our industry is focused on ensuring that mine sites around the world are responsibly closed and reclaimed to enable productive post-mining land uses. As such, our main goal in developing the checklist was to produce something that would be valuable for governments looking to develop or revise mine closure legislation. During the review of the checklist, the views of a diverse group of representatives was sought to ensure that a wide range of perspectives was captured in the final product,” said Mark Freberg of Teck Resources Limited, who was involved in creating the checklist.

The aim of the checklist is to provide policy-makers with guidelines for successful mine closure governance to help them identify and address gaps in their current framework, protect the environment and the interests of the nearby communities, and foster the benefits mining brings through investment and development. To achieve these goals, APEC worked collaboratively with regulators in various jurisdictions and mining professionals to ensure that the checklist would provide value throughout regions’ closure processes.

Bjorn Weeks, Principal with Golder Associates and Senior Geoenvironmental Engineer, also involved in the creation of the checklist, said, “Developing the checklist was a fantastic opportunity to survey the global state of mine closure practice through discussions with government representatives, NGOs, mining companies and a wide range of industry professionals. The resulting product provides both guidance to regulators and documentation of best practices. It also identifies priorities for future mining policy in a way that is sensitive to the development needs in different parts of the world.” 

The checklist is divided into four phases. It begins with establishing a governmental task force to lead the creation or updating of a government’s mine closure policy. It involves participation from various stakeholders throughout policy development and implementation. The final phase involves setting a strategy to transition from existing regulations to new closure policies.

Image from APEC’s Mine Closure Checklist

The IGF, in partnership with the APEC Mining Task Force, is currently piloting the implementation of the checklist in Papua New Guinea. The pilot results will be presented to APEC members in August 2018 during the week of the Mining Ministerial Meetings in Port Moresby.

The Mine Closure Checklist for Governments 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 and non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives, among others.