British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Opportunities to incorporate mine closure into mine planning Ames, S. E.


Most early mine operations did not include closure planning. When closing an abandoned mine, operators are faced with all of the problems that have been left, for example, old equipment and structures, contamination, unstable landforms and a lack of soil to reclaim the disturbed areas. Closure planning is now a requirement for both new and operating mines around the world. Its focus is on meeting the end land use objectives and regulatory requirements. Early closure planning at the mine development stage provides an opportunity to design landforms for successful closure and more easily meet the end land use objectives of the site while complying with regulatory requirements. These opportunities may be lost if closure planning is delayed. For example, the options for reclaiming waste rock piles may be reduced if planning is carried out later in a project. Early planning can reduce future closure costs by minimising rehandling of mine wastes. This also affects bonding costs. Innovative approaches for closure that provide long-term site and environmental sustainability at the post-closure stage increase the opportunity for regulatory and stakeholder approval, allowing a project to be permitted sooner. Early closure planning also enables coordination of all aspects of mine development that will allow the closure of the project to occur as planned. There are challenges in coordinating engineers, wildlife biologists, soil scientists and water specialists to develop a cost-effective and sensible plan for closure. Inputs and considerations from these different disciplines in mine planning result in a closure plan that is generally based on current conditions of the mine site and ensures there is more opportunity to return the site to its former condition, as much as practical. Sometimes, temporary or early closure is required. For example, some early infrastructure may be buried by later infrastructure so if a project is stopped, the closure requirements will be different than if the project proceeded. Early planning for these unexpected situations may also affect closure and bonding costs. This paper discusses opportunities that were realised when mine planning occurred early in a project and the challenges and approaches that were encountered when closure planning occurred during operations and when a site had been abandoned. These approaches can be used in mines in Canada and all over the world. Closure planning allows the closed mine site to partially disappear into the surrounding environment, as mines are only borrowing the site for a period of time.

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