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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Climate risk and adaptation management in mine closure planning in mountainous watersheds Castillo Devoto, Gabriel Alfredo


The mining industry has the potential to play a leading role in contributing to sustainable development in societies. This is particularly important in mountainous regions because the livelihoods of many rural communities rely on ecosystem services from watersheds surrounding mining operations. It is therefore critical that mine closure planning adopts a social-ecological approach. Climate variability exacerbates the importance of this issue because it increases the risks of extreme events and may result in potentially large environmental impacts. Reassessment of mine closure strategies and management of associated ecosystem services may be required. Although the mining industry has improved energy efficiency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there is currently a lack of effective tools to quantify the extent of climate-related risks during mine closure design. The purpose of this research is to improve fundamental knowledge in this field and identify practical strategies for proactively managing climate-related risks during mine closure planning. A new framework for climate risk assessment is proposed that can assist companies in considering hazards, vulnerabilities, and exposures within a social-ecological system to integrate human and ecosystem components during mine closure planning. The research adopted a multi-method approach. A systematic review was conducted of publicly available data and self-reported information from the global top ten mining companies by market capitalization. The assessment used a benchmarking methodology to analyse industry’s current approach to climate risk management. Secondly, to understand the practices that could facilitate adaptation to climate risks during mine closure, a group of experts was assembled to reach consensus on this topic through a Delphi survey. Following a review of climate risk assessment protocols in other areas, including public infrastructure, cities, and rural development, a novel framework was developed to support climate risk assessment during mine closure planning. This framework was tested through a qualitative case study focused on the Mine Closure Plan for Teck’s Elkview Operations in British Columbia. The research illustrates the importance of adopting an ecosystem-based adaptation approach to inform sustainable mine closure planning and produces a novel framework to support improved decision making.

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