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Historically, when an orebody was exhausted, production ceased and mines were boarded up and abandoned. The norm today is that mine closure requires the return of the land to a viable post-mining use, such as agriculture or other forms of repurposing that will benefit all the stakeholders. Baseline closure that merely reclaims mined out areas is no longer a preferred outcome and the socio-economic influences of the closure needs to be assessed well in advance and managed accordingly.
A mine is often the primary provider of income, employment, and services in a local economy. The closure of a mine usually has significant impact on the wellbeing of the community. This impact is extreme in developing countries where local government lacks capacity to structure a development process that would provide alternative economic opportunities (World Bank 2002).
Sustainable development practices on mine sites can be the mechanism by which capital generated through mineral extraction is passed on to future generations (Grant et al. 2018). The World Bank (2002) lists three sustainability development practice requirements:
Early constructive action by mining companies to ensure that the memory of mining is not one of negative environmental and social impacts a reputation that will increasingly threaten future mining operations elsewhere.
The proactive involvement by local communities to ensure that the benefits from mining are sustainable for future generations.
The legal framework, with early planning and support to local communities by government, to ensure that the authorities are not left to manage large environmental and social legacies.
Achievable satisfactory closure outcomes for all parties will be reached through multi-stakeholder consultation including government, industry, labour, and the communities. Legislation may act as the final arbiter of any repurposing, design, or closure decisions and while mining companies are obliged to make these decisions, other stakeholders ought to use legislation to guide their decisions in the face of demands and this should be done in a transparent manner. Companies must work within the conditions associated with their licence to operate but not leave themselves open to liabilities.
Constraints in decision-making include financial limitations, community expectations, and a lack of information and time. Minority rights should be able to influence decision-making as due consideration of these rights is important, but need not be limiting. Similarly, majority rule in closure planning decisions is not essential. A successful closure planning process will ultimately lead to an agreement with government as the final arbiter.
Keywords: stakeholders, financial limitations, closure planning, legislation
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