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Closure and sustainability initiatives leading to the reopening of the Gibraltar Mine Patterson, R. J.; Errington, John
The Gibraltar Mine, which resumed production in October 2004, was known as a swing producer during its years of operation from 1972 to 1998 – delivering some excellent profits when copper prices were high but experiencing shutdowns when prices dropped. During an extended closure between December 1998 and October 2004, mine staff worked with two levels of government to initiate some creative programs to help sustain the operation through lower parts of the price cycle. One of the prime considerations of closure planning is to provide for the long-term environmental security of the site. Ideally mining companies strive towards a program that will require minimal maintenance, control and monitoring of the site, leading to the ultimate release of long-term liability. In more recent years, especially for mines with water quality issues, this relinquishment of long-term responsibility is unlikely, and large security bonds are now required by government. These security bonds insure an on-going sustainable fund to maintain the site. During the closure period, Gibraltar had posted reclamation security which included $17 million in a cash deposit and an asset security agreement for a further $13 million. There was a further unfunded liability of $12 million which government accepted as a risk. For small companies such as Gibraltar to maintain a presence at these mines, there is an incentive for both the company and government to make use of the existing infrastructure to create alternate businesses. Gibraltar has embarked on an aggressive program to look for alternative business ventures which generate revenue, to both lower the risk of default, and to offset long-term bonding arrangements. Projects being considered or in the works are a solid waste landfill to be located on top of a waste rock dump, a power generation project, metallurgical test work, maintenance work in existing shops, ranching and the possible development of a hydrometallurgical refinery plant that will operate long after reserves at the Gibraltar site are depleted. As a final innovation, Gibraltar was able to raise $17.6 million by independent investors by way of a Qualified Environmental Trust which allowed government to release the $17 million cash deposit to help finance the mine restart.
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