Critical analysis and mine closure: why do things still go wrong in a swirl of feasibility, regulation and planning?

Rory Haymont
2012 Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Mine Closure   unpublished
Mine closure planning is attended by increasingly more comprehensive regulatory, technical, corporate and financial planning requirements. However, in some parts of the mining sector in Australia, there are very significant areas of mining disturbance that clearly cannot be relinquished. Further, proposals in the process of approval do not suggest that many of the new developments in these areas will perform significantly better. This paper investigates how this can continue to be the case,
more » ... increasing focus continues to be applied to mine closure. Although some of the contributing factors discussed are technical, such as climatic, chemical and physical conditions, modelling and design, several are more centred on corporate, organisational, regulatory and essentially human attributes. These factors frequently involve obstacles to critical analysis that make mine closure predisposed to a failure to meet closure expectations and commitments. These contributing factors are often largely ignored in the processes attendant to understanding long-term mining liability during due diligence, feasibility, approvals, operations and the closure phase. Identifying instances where a number of such factors may be present can indicate that some risks may not be captured in technical risk assessments. In addition to detailing several of the contributing factors which can lead to a failure of mine closure or mine closure planning, this paper proposes mitigating responses for each of the contributing factors presented and expands upon responses which have the greatest probability of being adopted. Considering the expense involved in creating new landscapes, the long-term risks involved, and the degree to which regulation, technical investigation, corporate standards and financial surety systems have evolved and are more rigorously applied; it can be surprising that there are so many closed mines not being relinquished. Indeed, the realisation of a 'walk away' mine closure occurs in a minority of instances. There are many and varied examples of success in mine closure that demonstrate the potential for technical success, while integrating the needs and aspirations of a range of stakeholders into final outcomes which are both sustainable and valued as post mining assets. Many studies and papers are available about such projects. Many improvements in mine closure have occurred over recent decades. However, the 'wrong' outcomes are not uncommon and this paper focusses on what contributing factors can lead to things going wrong in mine closure. These outcomes may include:  A corporate entity or government having to respond to a liability which generates ongoing environmental harm and expense in maintenance of physical and/or chemical discharges.  A rehabilitation ecology establishing which does not meet expectations or targets, is unduly represented by flora and fauna species not reflected in the baseline data or does not demonstrate the land capability to support agreed post closure land uses.  The development of long term risks associated with changes in physical or chemical properties and performance or beyond design events which trigger the situation described previously.  Stakeholders disappointed in a reasonable expectation or failure to fulfil commitments to the standards indicated at project approval. Critical analysis and mine closure: why do things still go wrong in a swirl of feasibility, R. Haymont regulation and planning? 40 | Mine Closure 2012, Brisbane, Australia
doi:10.36487/acg_rep/1208_05_haymont fatcat:2vulxtlvebg3nnaczzge3m24pa