SA Mines and Energy Journal : June - July 2013
42 JUNE/JULY 2013 SA MINES & ENERGY JOURNAL OPINION Closure is the ultimate fate of every mine, but successfully earning a 'social licence to close' requires sound planning throughout every stage of the mine life cycle. Closure is a challenge as it is a continually evolving process applicable to all stages of mine life: design, mine planning, construction and operation. The closure process should commence with agreed final land use objectives, developed with the participation of other stakeholders. A typical closure planning process for a greenfield mining operation adapts as the project progresses and as more data becomes available, enabling more detailed closure planning to take place. It also shows that as the project proceeds and decisions are made on design issues, the flexibility available to closure planners is reduced. These aspects of the closure planning process need to be clearly recognised from the outset, with final land use and other closure objectives integral to mine design and planning considerations. Closure plans may be revised in response to the results of reclamation activities or tests; public response to a proposed closure plan; changes in mine operations, such as production rate, ore type or technology changes; changes in economic conditions; or unexpected or adverse weather encountered during the construction and operational phases. Mine closure plans evolve through three basic stages that should blend into a continuum, with closure planning becoming part of a mine's operational philosophy. The first stage produces a Conceptual Closure Plan (CCP), often submitted to government as part of the approval process. The next stage extends throughout the majority of the mine's life, comprising an ongoing evolution of the CCP in the light of operating experience and interaction with stakeholders into a Detailed Closure Plan (DCP). The DCP should be a dynamic document that is periodically updated as the understanding of stated goals and completion criteria to assess attainment of those goals improves. The final stage is a Decommissioning and Closure Plan, in many ways a mirror image of the Detailed Construction and Project Management Plan used to construct the mine. This defines all activities needed to transition the mine from full production to final relinquishment of the land. It also schedules the deconstruction and demolition of all built facilities, rehabilitation of disturbed land and the monitoring required to verify when the completion criteria have been met. Regulators in South Australia have increased their expectations for detailed mine closure planning. The Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy (DMITRE) wants to see consideration of all possible mine risks, including closure, up-front. Therefore, early and proactive planning provides the most flexible starting point for closure assessment. The Mining Lease Proposal (MLP) and Program for Environment Protection and Rehabilitation (PEPR) reflects a more integrated approach to closure impact assessment and planning. CCPs are now expected early and, as projects mature, the periodic revision of PEPR documentation should reflect changing closure needs. This ongoing review should occur over the life of the mine, whether five to 35 years or beyond. DMITRE has long placed an emphasis on mine operators to demonstrate social sustainability through active and informed consultation with directly affected stakeholders. This 'social licence to operate' is an integral part of providing the regulator with confidence in assessment and risk management on the part of the operator. DMITRE's current expectations include closure risk being integrated into the overall environmental and social risk analysis required for an MLP, as well as the assignment of performance objectives and criteria. This change raises the profile of conceptual closure planning within the overall operation risk assessment, making it an integral part of the approval environmental and social assessment focus. Conceptual closure planning is not restricted to environmental hazards and risk management, but should accommodate stakeholder input into the evolving final closure concepts and landform. Ultimately, the successful closure of a mine requires early and clear understanding of the regulator's expectations and the capacity to adapt and modify closure plans throughout the stages of a mine's life. Hugh Jones is Senior Scientist and Engineer at Golder Associates; Alex Blood is a Principal Scientist at Golder Associates. Shutting up shop The closure of a mine involves sound planning through every stage of the mine life cycle, as Hugh Jones and Alex Blood report. Seminar SACOME will be conducting a Mine Closure seminar with Golder Associates on 2 July. The seminar will be facilitated by community engagement expert Bob Goreing, with presenters including Greg Marshall of DMITRE, Hugh Jones from Golder Associates and representatives from Murray Zircon. The seminar will provide an understanding of DMITRE's expectations, present a case study of successful closure planning and address closure risks from engagement through to environment to regulator issues. South Australia's White Dam during maximum production; the project is scheduled for closure and rehabilitation this year.
April - May 2013
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