British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Closure planning practice and landscape performance at 57 Canadian and U.S. mines McKenna, Gord; Dawson, Richard F.


A large number of operating, dormant, and abandoned minesites in Canada and the U.S. were visited in 1996 to gather information on closure planning practice and to observe the performance of reclaimed landscapes. Information was compiled from mine tours and through on-site interviews with reclamation and environmental personnel. Most Canadian mines are on the closure path and have completed their first conceptual closure plan, usually in response to new government regulations. However, there is considerable uncertainty regarding several key closure issues including certification, abandonment, long-term residual liability, financial assurance, and numerous technical issues. Most mining landforms are showing good performance in terms of physical stability and revegetation. However, there is some uncertainty regarding the long-term reliability and performance of some landforms, most notably constructed rivers, end-pit lake filling, and tailings slopes. Difficulty in prediction of the long-term performance of closure landscapes has, in part, lead to a certification barrier. Very few mines have requested or achieved certification of reclaimed land, despite the fact that certification is usually the stated objective of reclamation activity. Although most mine reclamation focuses on certification, a more strategic focus is required. The ultimate objective for mine reclamation should be custodial transfer of the land (to the crown or a third party), with certification being one step on the closure path. Due to the concerns about long-term liability for reclaimed sites, a transfership barrier exists and very little reclaimed mine land has been transferred to new owners. Landscape engineering (setting goals, designing for closure, using landforms and vegetation that have sustainable and reliable long-term performance) is perhaps the next major step in mine reclamation practice. Aspects of this approach have already been adopted by several mines and research is ongoing.

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