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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Managing mine shutdowns : the case for community preparedness planning Dahlie, Brenda Gayle


The purpose of this thesis has been to determine ways of developing a readiness by a dependent mining community for the possibility of temporary shutdown and the inevitability of mine closure. It begins with the premise that while the occurrence of either, in most cases, cannot be prevented, its process can be controlled and its impacts managed if there is adequate preparation. Specifically, the thesis constructs a preparedness planning framework which approaches the need for community preparedness in two ways: 1) short-term strategies to address the immediate needs .of the community following the announcement of shutdown or closure; and 2) long-term strategies to prevent, if feasible, the loss of an economic mainstay. Through this, a community is able to address the uncertainty inherent in the mine's life-span and ultimately its own. The need for a mining community to plan for the loss of its economic mainstay is documented through the case studies of two northern mining communities - Elsa and Faro, in the Yukon Territory - which have recently experienced the indefinite shutdowns of their affiliated mines. Based on interviews with involved parties (the mining company, federal and territorial governments, union and local community officials, and residents), it appeared that very little planning for the possibility of a shutdown had been undertaken. Reasons for this included: 1) a lack of recognition of its possible occurrence as well as the extent of community impacts 2) uncertainty as to its occurrence and duration 3) uncertainty over how to prepare for a shutdown 4) uncertainty over roles and responsibilities for such preparedness. A review of the pertinent literature suggests that such problems are not particular to Elsa and Faro, but rather, are typical in most situations where shutdowns and closures were not planned. In the case studies, this lack of planning has resulted in an ad hoc and crisis-induced approach to a shutdown; an approach which appeared to have exacerbated its social and economic dislocation with delays and confusion over responsibilities and assistance measures. In developing the conceptual framework for the preparedness planning approach, the thesis draws upon the experiences in the natural disaster field, due to the similarities in dependency and vulnerability which both a mining community and a disaster-prone community share. From disaster planning efforts, three lessons were found to be of fundamental importance to the development of a preparedness planning framework: 1) the need to prepare, in advance, short and long-term strategies to assist the community in reducing the resulting social and economic dislocation created by a shutdown; 2) the need for a systematic planning process to provide a community with the 'means' to manage and minimize this dislocation; 3) the need to integrate community preparedness efforts with national policy planning in order to develop a more comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to the managing the process and consequences of mine shutdown. For a mining community to be prepared for either a mine shutdown or closure, three sets of alternatives need to be developed: • response alternatives (that is, who is responsible for what when either actually occurs); • cyclical shutdown preparation alternatives (for example, the development of make-work projects to offset periods of shutdown); and, • dependency-reduction alternatives (that is, the development of preventative strategies, if possible, for avoiding dependence on one economic mainstay). It is proposed that the actual preparedness planning and development of these strategies be done by an inter-sectoral committee comprised of representatives from each of the involved parties in a mining community. Finally, implementation of the preparedness planning process should be approached in one of two ways. For new projects north of 60° which require the special creation of an affiliated community, requirements for preparedness planning and allocation of responsibilities should be determined before the issuance of a water licence. Such requirements would be similar to those already established for dealing with environmental concerns in mining projects. For existing mining commmunities north of 60°, such legal requirements cannot be applied as the mine is already operating. It is therefore suggested that preparedness planning be encouraged by the federal and territorial governments through financial incentives and disincentives.

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