Authors: Springer, D


Cite As:
Springer, D 2011, 'Five years to the end – planning the closure of Rio Tinto’s Blair Athol coal mine', in AB Fourie, M Tibbett & A Beersing (eds), Mine Closure 2011: Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 471-477,

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Mining of the Blair Athol coal measures is coming to an end.  Since coal was discovered in 1864, 15 underground and four open cut mining operations have mined what was once a four coal seam measure with a 30 metre thick main seam. Current large scale export operations started in 1983 and since then over 240 million tonnes of coal have been mined.  Originally scheduled to cease operations in 2010, Rio Tinto has been actively planning for closure since the early 2000s.  Changes to mining rates and resource definition over the last ten years have seen closure extended from 2010 to 2016. The closure planning process has been an important part of site management.  Blair Athol mine’s closure vision is: to minimise adverse impacts on the natural environment and to leave a legacy of enduring community benefit. To facilitate the implementation of this vision in 2011, Rio Tinto will develop a +/-15% cost engineered decommissioning plan for Blair Athol.  Similar to a feasibility study for a new mine, the decommissioning plan will cover all aspects of closing a mine. It will build on the strategies and management programmes contained in the site mine closure plan.  This paper examines how the Rio Tinto’s mine closure planning process has been implemented at Blair Athol mine, integration of the vision and closure objectives into the day to day management of the operation, community relations and the process of developing a decommissioning plan that will be used to close the mine in little over five years from now.

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