Sommerville, K & Ferguson, K 2022, 'Let’s reimagine our legacy of mining', in AB Fourie, M Tibbett & G Boggs (eds), Mine Closure 2022: 15th International Conference on Mine Closure
, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 3-18, https://doi.org/10.36487/ACG_repo/2215_0.01
If the mine you are operating will be stuck with your company forever – would you do something different?
As miners, the industry is expert at delivering safely at a price. Closure, traditionally, is pushed to the back of the productive life and given a myopic magnifying glass once a year to make sure its cost does not impair the balance sheet. The problem is that society demands more of us; governments are less willing to allow relinquishment, and there is real risk if the mine is sold off and the new company goes bankrupt, it will return to the balance sheet and reputation.
We realise that how we optimised the mine life in the past is not necessarily the best when we apply a modern set of optics. With the value of hindsight this paper examines case studies of mines in BHP Legacy Asset’s portfolio to compare short- and long-term closure thinking and showcase important aspects of closure. Aspects of closure that we need to consider in an integrated way such as: risk; technical; closure; water; social closure (now more commonly known as ‘just transition’); stakeholder management; innovation; climate change; operational integration, and change.
BHP Legacy Asset’s stewards 23 sites in various stages of closure across the USA and Canada; 200 people including contractors; 108 dams in 23 different facilities and 12 water treatment plants, most of which BHP did not mine but acquired in transactions. Costs are real and, in some cases, forever.
The industry needs to become expert at reimagining how to operate with closure in mind. It requires an integrated approach: mining, geology, data, geospatial, geotechnical, finance, environment, water, renewables, community, and legal. The industry needs to be able to make the case for outcomes that have long-term benefit, but which may require an increased short-term cost.
If the tension between short-term demands and long-term outcomes are realistic, beneficial to the environment and community, the industry can promote our licence to operate, and we can all be proud of our legacy.
Keywords: closure, technology, water treatment, risk, community, climate change, monitoring
Sommerville, K & Heyes, J 2009, ‘Be open to closure – it can save you money’, Proceedings of the Iron Ore 2009 Conference, Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Perth.