Adey, EA & Whitbread-Abrutat, PH 2013, 'Social mine closure planning: how is it changing and why?', in M Tibbett, AB Fourie & C Digby (eds), Mine Closure 2013: Proceedings of the Eighth International Seminar on Mine Closure
, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Cornwall, pp. 431-440, https://doi.org/10.36487/ACG_rep/1352_36_Adey
Mine closure can have vast and diverse impacts on communities. Mining projects can have positive and negative legacies, but developments can create concern within communities, often related to aspects of the community and the environment post-mining: ‘People who work for the mining company, once the mine closes you will have made your money. We will be left with the environment you leave behind and what will happen to our community then when the jobs go?’ This quote is taken from a local person interviewed as part of an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) on a gold project in Kazakhstan. Similar words are often spoken by local people, emphasising the need for a mine development to provide positive and lasting benefits to people, particularly communities close to a mine.
Changes in how companies operate are being driven by many factors, including the criticism and scrutiny that governments and project financers have received in the past for regulating and funding projects with large-scale adverse environmental and social impacts. Public pressure, particularly from campaigning non-governmental organisations and local community action, coupled with increased media presence from Web 2.0 technology, is increasing awareness and raising community expectations, driving change in how governments and financial institutions operate. This paper explores how different factors are contributing to changes in how financial institutions lend money, discussed in the context of how mining companies plan for mine closure.
Globally, it is evident that companies are placing a greater emphasis on integrating social aspects of mine closure within their overall closure plans. The key to success is to ensure the impacts of mine closure on communities are considered and mitigated prior to a mine becoming operational, where possible. Current best practice on developing social mine closure plans will be presented using guidance from the International Finance Corporation’s Performance Standards and the International Council on Mining and Metals, exploring examples in an international context on how best practice is implemented. Conversely, legacy cases will be discussed to show where lessons can be learned and the knowledge applied to future projects.
Examples show how the key steps in successful planning to mitigate negative impacts of mine closure on communities start from gaining a thorough understanding of communities, often as part of the social baseline for an ESIA. A realistic ‘needs assessment’ of communities is also required, identifying what employment sources exist in surrounding communities and how these can be diversified further. Previous examples demonstrate how economic diversification can be successfully achieved through companies supporting community development projects in collaboration with the state, which is the key to creating lasting benefits and a sustainable local economy beyond the life of the mine. Conversely, examples exist where ‘mining communities’ develop solely because of a mine, and in some instances it may be more beneficial to develop strategies to support temporary communities, focusing on support put in place to benefit residents in the long term.
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