Tag Archives: Mine closure

Planning for Closure

Mining with an eye on closure

Mine closure is a process now considered from the outset of a mining project, with operators only receiving their so-called ‘social licence to operate’ when a well-considered and understandable end of life plan is outlined.

Ahead of Planning for Closure 2024, taking place in Santiago, Chile, from May 8-10, IM heard from Bjorn Weeks, Chair of the event and Teck Resources’ Senior Advisor for Mine Closure, on the big issues being considered by industry.

Q: What can you tell us about Teck’s plans and approach regarding planned mine closures and the challenges and opportunities these imply for the company?

A: Teck is committed to sustainable and responsible mining, and mine closure is an essential part of this. Effective mine closure has allowed us to demonstrate in a concrete way that we follow through on our sustainability commitments. We also recognise that the best outcomes for closure are rooted in early planning. Good planning requires having the right people focused on developing, revising and implementing closure plans.

As a proudly Canada-based, global producer of the critical metals and minerals needed for the transition to a net-zero future, we have a long history of responsible resource development and we have an advantage in that we can draw on our experiences from the mines that we have responsibly closed successfully in the past.

The practice of mine closure is evolving throughout the industry, and Teck’s practice is evolving with it. We are constantly looking at best industry practices, such as those outlined by the ICMM, and making sure we incorporate them in our standards, procedures and guidelines in a meaningful way.

Q: Regarding the process of mine closure, what could you tell us about your approach to the rehabilitation of the land, the associated costs and work with the communities?

A: The importance of effective rehabilitation of the land has increased over the years, and what would be seen as the standard for satisfactory rehabilitation has evolved. In the not-so-distant past, achieving a reasonable degree of chemical and physical stability would be considered exemplary rehabilitation. However, in modern practice, the goals now go further – can we mine in a way that minimises the disruption to nature and biodiversity? Can we conduct closure in a way that speeds the restoration of ecosystems, potentially incorporating progressive closure? And, if we do those things, how does that fit with the desires and needs of the surrounding communities? Both as those communities are today, and as they will exist in the future – during and after closure. These are challenging questions that require the investment of time and resources to address. But I don’t think there is an alternative if the industry it to gain and maintain the trust of the society that we ultimately serve.

Q: How do you assess the progress that the mining industry is making in terms of planning for the closure of mining operations in recent years?

A: The industry continues to make remarkable progress in terms of planning for closure, with the state of practice in mine closure evolving dramatically across the globe. There are now many sites that have undergone what I would call a “modern” closure, which fully incorporate chemical and physical stability as well as – in some cases – addressing biodiversity and a well-managed social transition, with excellent results and many lessons learned about which technologies work, and which do not.

Bjorn Weeks, Senior Advisor, Mine Closure, Teck Resources, and Planning For Closure 2024 Chair

As we get better at addressing the fundamental challenges associated with promoting the long-term chemical and physical stability of our closed sites, industry attention is now turning to better addressing other challenges. The social component of closure is increasingly a focus – how do we incorporate community desires in our closure plans? How do we ease the economic transition for communities that have depended on the benefits of mining during operations? At Teck, we engage early with communities and Indigenous Peoples to ensure they are involved in closure and end land use planning.

In recent years we have also seen planning for closure take on the challenges of impacts to biodiversity and nature. How can we close mines in a way that supports nature, and even has the potential to enhance biodiversity? Remarkable research has been done and significant advances have been made in this area, and I think that it is through successful closures that incorporate these concepts that the industry will be able to demonstrate to the world that sustainable mining is not only possible but practical.

At the same time, we know that nature loss is a critical global challenge that requires a coordinated global effort to tackle, and Teck is taking action now. We are working to support a nature positive future by 2030. This includes investing significantly in innovation to reduce our impacts and conserving and reclaiming at least three hectares for every one hectare we affect through mining. We are accelerating the pace of reclamation for our own sites and working with local communities and Indigenous Peoples to protect nature in accordance with their priorities. We’ve conserved or restored a total of 51,900 hectares since we launched our Nature Positive goal in 2022.

4. How does Planning for Closure 2024 help mining companies (as well as other stakeholders) to continue to make progress in improving the different areas involved in mine closure?

A: The tremendous rate of advance in mine closure practice has been made possible by the willingness of practitioners to share information. Absolutely nothing can replace the power of a conference to bring together people who have different levels of experience and different backgrounds to learn from each other. I have had the privilege to attend Planning for Closure since its inaugural edition in 2016, and I think it provides an important forum for both the formal and informal sharing of knowledge. At this conference we see seasoned industry veterans mixing with people who are just beginning their careers, and we see mining industry executives freely interchanging experiences with consultants and stakeholders.

Planning for Closure 2024 occupies a unique space – Latin America in general, and Chile in particular, is home to some of the largest and most important mines in the world including Teck’s newly expanded Quebrada Blanca operation, and the challenges in planning for and executing those closures are huge. In that context, it is incredibly important to have a conference like this one that is international in reach, and can draw on the full range of global experience, while still providing enough of a local focus to speak to the real challenges facing practitioners here.

For mining companies like Teck, this conference is an opportunity to both to contribute to advancing the dialogue about mine closure, and to the development of the professionals we need as an industry.

The Planning for Closure 2024 event is a forum where executives, professionals and academics can learn and analyse strategies and tools that allow the integration of mining planning from the initial stage of a project and throughout the life of a mine. Find out more about the event here

Mine closure under the spotlight at IMARC

Experts from environmental, economic and social science backgrounds are converging in Sydney, Australia, this November at the International Mining and Resources Conference & Expo (IMARC) to discuss opportunities created by the rehabilitation and repurposing of out-of-use mine sites, according to event organisers.

Due to necessary land disturbances, most mine sites cannot be returned to their natural state so owners must look at how to repurpose them to create long-term economic opportunities and reduce the burden on the environment.

Dr Guy Boggs, CEO of CRC TiME, says these sites can provide long-term benefits far beyond mine lifespans.

“Everybody is focused on energy transition at the moment and the need to decarbonise,” he says. “There are some really novel projects happening, looking at old mine pits and turning them into pumped hydropower sites.”

He offers up the example of the old Kidston gold mine, west of Townsville, Queensland, that is starting to produce electricity with pumped hydro and also incorporates a massive solar energy farm.

“The mines have strong electricity grids so you can make use of the infrastructure that was built during the mine,” he said.

The Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro project will produce 250 MW of renewable energy, providing enough electricity to power 143,000 homes.

CRC TiME says old mine sites across Australia are being used for a range of long-term projects that the public may not be aware of. These include environmental sanctuaries in WA’s Goldfields region and scientific innovations such as an underground physics lab within the Stawell Gold Mine.

The rate of new mine closures in Australia is expected to increase in the near future as many mines come to the end of their operating life. On average, a mine is expected to operate between 10 and 30 years with the resources boom beginning 30 years ago, according to experts.

IMARC speaker, Meg Kauthen, Sustainability Designer at Business for Development, believes Australia is uniquely positioned to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the closure of mine sites.

Kauthen says: “If we get infrastructure aligned to the community’s needs, it’s a fantastic investment beyond the life of the mine. We have been working in Africa where we have repurposed old mine infrastructure to help boost the agronomics of the region in partnership with the Cotton On Group.

“We suggest that Australian mines and mining communities need to approach the development of infrastructure in the same way.”

The economic opportunities presented to many regional communities facing mine closures will require a diversified workforce ranging from engineers, business and operations managers, accountants, hydrologists and beyond, experts say.

And, by diversifying the economic opportunities in regional Australia, it is hoped that more people will migrate from the capital cities help grow smaller communities.

This is just one of the many opportunities within the mining sector being explored at IMARC, which will run from November 2-4, 2022.

International Mining is a media sponsor of IMARC 2022

Mine closure: keeping the mining sector viable

Mine closure has become a hot topic in recent years as stakeholder engagement and investor concerns over mining’s sustainability credentials have risen up the company agenda.

With Gecamin’s 4th International Congress on Planning for Mine Closure only a month away (May 10-13, online), IM touched base with Kim Ferguson, Global Practice Leader of Closure at BHP, and Chair of Planning for Closure 2022, to find out what attendees can expect from the event and how the sector has evolved in the last decade.

IM: Why is now an important time to hold a mine closure congress? What makes this gathering integral to the future of the industry?

KF: As the ESG (environment, social and governance) concept receives increased awareness, so too does the concept of applying these considerations across the full life cycle of a mine, including the closure and post-closure periods. Planning and implementing responsible mine closures take time, and it is imperative that, as an industry and as stakeholders involved in the process, we all learn from each other and, together, improve our performance.

Mining is an inevitable part of our modern life and the pathway to global decarbonisation and through improved performance in closure, we contribute to the ongoing viability of the industry and the benefits the industry brings. Planning for Closure 2022 provides a critical interactive platform for sharing of this knowledge and networking for ongoing connectivity.

IM: Reflecting on the last Planning for Closure event in 2020: what has changed? Are there any congress themes to have emerged that were not present two years ago?

KF: There are no themes that were not present two years ago, however there are two themes which have increased in prominence in the technical program. The first is mine closure regulation and standards. Revision of mine closure regulations has occurred in a number of countries and jurisdictions in the past two years, evolving to better reflect current
stakeholder expectations. The second is stakeholder engagement in closure planning. The increase in technical papers for this theme reflects the improved awareness globally that mine closure is a collaborative and participatory process with all stakeholders having a role.

BHP has committed to integrating closure into its planning, decision-making and activities through the entire life cycle of its operated assets. From what you see, is the rest of the industry taking similar steps to ensure operations are responsibly concluded for the benefit of all stakeholders?

KF: Absolutely. As part of the International Council on Mining and Metals, we regularly discuss closure with our peers as we all face similar challenges. The industry, in general, is taking similar steps to increase the uniformity of good practice across the sector.

IM: How has the process of planning for mine closure changed in the last decade? Have you seen more stakeholders come to the table interested in mine closure from a much earlier stage in a project’s life?

KF: The evolution of the ICMM Integrated Mine Closure: Good Practice Guide from the 2009 version to the 2019 version indicates how far the industry has come and provides a valuable resource for responsible mine closure planning and execution. The evolution has been predominately around expansion of closure considerations from rehabilitation to a
more holistic concept including environmental, social and economic aspects from the earliest stages of mine development. There has also been an increased awareness that closure planning, along with mine planning and external influences, is dynamic and iterative.

IM: At the same time, have you seen the evolution of mining software and real-time monitoring solutions improve the mine closure planning process? Is this making it easier to effectively outline the long-term plans to these stakeholders?

KF: There has definitely been an evolution of mining-related software and monitoring systems that improve the efficiency and accuracy of monitoring. This in turn improves data availability and integrity across the full life cycle of a mine. When this data is combined with other information, it contributes to a reduction in uncertainty and allows for more informed closure planning, leading to improved outcomes for all.

IM: How do you see the concept of mine closure changing over the next decade? Will it become even more embedded in the project development process with the post-closure mine future becoming a more important part of companies gaining and retaining their social licence to operate?

KF: Closure is already an important component for the industry to obtain and retain regulatory licences to operate as regulation evolves to increasingly require closure planning and progressive execution as an integral part of resource operations. Responsible mine closure is also already an important component in the industry being able to obtain and retain our social licence to operate and enable access to new resources, and, with growing awareness of ESG, this will likely increase.

I believe over the next decade mine closure concepts will continue to evolve to reflect stakeholder expectations and that the industry’s role is as a responsible and respectful temporary steward of the land on which we operate. This requires ongoing embedment of closure considerations in all stages of a mine life cycle until integrated closure is simply part of the way we do business.

IM is a media sponsor of Planning for Closure 2022

Parsons ISO Standard on mine closure and reclamation management to be published next month

Parsons Corp has announced that a new International Standards Organization (ISO) Standard and Guidance Document for Mine Closure and Reclamation Management has been internationally approved.

Parsons, a leader in the development of these first-of-their kind standards, says the standard will be published in October.

“Mine closure is a critical component of mine planning, as it can impact the economy, safety and environment of the surrounding community,” Jon Moretta, Executive Vice President, Industrial Market for Parsons, says. “We are proud to share our technical expertise, innovative technologies, and safety culture to help establish international standards to guide mine closure professionals around the world.”

Michael Nahir, Mine Reclamation Director for Parsons, served as the International Project Manager during the ISO guidance drafting and approval process, helping write and edit the standard and guidance document.

“This collaborative, five-year process gathered input from many companies and countries to deliver the first-ever comprehensive standards for mine closure best practices,” Nahir says. “This guidance will help improve closure and reclamation practices, to the benefit of mining communities around the world.”

Parsons says it is currently managing some of the world’s largest mine closure and reclamation projects at the Giant Mine in Northwest Territories, Canada, and Faro Mine in Yukon Territory, Canada, along with environmental remediation programs around the world.

Mining-focused consortium delves into mine closure ‘transition’

The University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) has published the first six project reports of the Social Aspects of Mine Closure Research Consortium.

Researchers at SMI’s Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) led the mine closure-related projects, which, they say, examined Indigenous employment opportunities, public participation and government engagement processes, integrating social aspects into industry partners’ closure planning, governance and regulation and mining as a temporary land use.

“The consortium is a multi-party, industry-university research collaboration established to conduct research that challenges accepted industry norms and practices and demands new approaches that place people at the centre of mine closure,” SMI said.

CSRM Director Professor, Deanna Kemp, said publishing the reports contributed significantly to the mine closure literature and provided stakeholders with the latest information.

“In the consortium’s first year of operation, we focused on establishing data and knowledge to inform subsequent research. This strategy is evident in the diversity of projects undertaken,” she said.

“A core theme has been around ‘transition’; that is, viewing closure not merely as an end-point of mining, but as a transition to a post-mining future in which social change continues long after a mine ceases to be productive.”

She said the consortium was now developing its 2020 research plan, “which will build on this solid foundation and deliver on our consortium partners’ priorities”.

Major mining companies such as Anglo American, BHP, MMG, Newcrest, Newmont, OceanaGold and Rio Tinto are consortium members, with the work sitting under the SMI’s Transforming the Mine Life Cycle strategic research program as one of three research themes (transitioning through closure).

Under the ‘Indigenous groups, land rehabilitation and mine closure: exploring the Australian terrain’ project, two challenging areas at the interface of mining and Indigenous communities in Australia are being addressed.

This includes, one, the persistent lack of direct employment of Indigenous landowners on mines operating on their land; and, two, increasing expectations that mining companies engage local communities in closure planning and closure criteria setting as a prerequisite for relinquishment.

“The approach taken seeks to build on one of the greatest assets Indigenous people possess; their attachment to and knowledge of their land,” the SMI said.

In the ‘Integrated mine closure planning: A rapid scan of innovations in corporate practice’ project, the study aims to identify novel approaches used by consortium member companies to integrate social dimensions into closure planning.

Identifying these approaches promotes knowledge exchange between the companies and provides direction for future research and innovation for mine closure performance, according to the SMI.

“We found that the companies are at various stages of integrating environmental, social and economic factors into planning (at all stages of the mine lifecycle),” it said.

The ‘Participatory processes, mine closure and social transitions’ project examines the fact that, in closure planning, the focus of public participation is on identifying and managing the changes brought about by closure.

The project will ask: “What participatory processes contribute to a smooth transition to a post-mining future? How can public participation contribute to a positive socio-economic legacy of mining?”

Undertaken as part of the Social Aspects of Mine Closure Research Consortium, this project will address these questions.

The SMI said: “Researchers found few studies documenting the specific application of participatory processes to mine closure. Even fewer provide analysis to glean broader insights beyond time- and context-specific details.”

This project was designed as an exploratory, desktop study to ascertain what is known and documented about participation in mine closure. It is intended to provide an overview of key principles and to function as a repository of case studies to support future research, according to the consortium members.

The ‘Government engagement: insights from three Australian states’ project sought to establish current state priorities for socially responsible mine closure and smooth regional post-mining transitions in the Australia state jurisdictions of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

It concentrated on priorities that are not yet evident in legislation and cultivating state authorities’ interest in the work of the consortium, according to the SMI.

“The project aimed to: better understand current and emerging expectations and role of Australian governments in ensuring attention to social aspects of closure; identify government strategies for improving the ‘afterlife’ for mining communities and regions; articulate regulator roles in protecting the public good and ensuring a positive socio-economic legacy of mining; facilitate two-way communication between the consortium and governments and identifying ways for government departments to connect to the consortium’s work.”

The project, ‘Mining as a temporary land use: industry-led transitions and repurposing’, showed that post-mining land use and associated economies have become a priority issue in mine lifecycle planning.
This scoping project starts from the position that reconceptualising mine ‘closure’ may enhance the industry’s contribution to sustainable development, the SMI said. It reframes mining as a “temporary land use”.

“The primary focus of this research is on identifying examples of post-mining repurposing of land and related economic transitions that are being led by industry,” the SMI said. “Transitions led by state or other actors (eg civil society groups) provide additional inspiration for industry-led opportunities. Our findings provide an initial repository of cases that different parties can refer to in making decisions about post-mining futures.”

Lastly, the ‘Social aspects of mine closure: governance & regulation’ project extends previous CSRM work on closure regulation and closure bonds.

The project partners reviewed mining regulations across 10 jurisdictions around the world, with the objective being to build a knowledge base of how regulators are approaching social aspects of closure. This involved collating, organising, and characterising over 40 acts, regulations, and policy documents.

“We found that no jurisdiction had passed regulation specific to social aspects of closure and all tended to focus on biophysical aspects of closure,” the SMI said. “Social aspects of mining received attention in relation to approvals, but not generally for closure.”

The evidence gathered in this project can be mobilised to support subsequent work, according to the partners, who suggested a collaboration between industry, government, and other stakeholders to develop model regulations that account for a variety of perspectives and reflect realistic operational parameters.

You can find out more about the projects by clicking here.