Authors: Boggs, G; Measham, T; D'Urso, J

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Boggs, G, Measham, T & D'Urso, J 2023, 'What are we transitioning into? Re-thinking the model of mine closure', in B Abbasi, J Parshley, A Fourie & M Tibbett (eds), Mine Closure 2023: Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth,

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The track record for achieving a successful ‘mine closure’ is not filled with an overwhelming number of success stories. But what is success? Is it closing the mine or rather a successful transition from one state to another? This requires a fundamental shift in how we conceptualise mine closure, from the current ‘What are we transitioning out of’, to the ideal ‘What are we transitioning into?’ This paper draws on a portfolio of research undertaken between 2020-2023 to explore a model for how mine closure could be re-framed through the lens of transition, with implications for government, mining and post-mine industry and regional communities. Closure concepts are well established and increasingly embedded in regulations with clear definitions within jurisdictions that have relative clarity around roles. However, these ideas are commonly underpinned by a ‘make good’ conceptualisation (‘safe, stable, self-sustaining and non-polluting’), are mining proponent led and have often seen return to pre-existing state as the desired outcome. The end of a mining operation has also traditionally – and understandably – been seen through the lens of the mining lifecycle. This fails to recognise the opportunities presented by re-purposing assets and transitioning value (social, cultural, economic and biophysical) associated with mined land and accrued in regional economies and infrastructure. It also critically misses the point that relinquishment requires agreement between mine and post-mine stakeholders to enable a transition to occur. This complexity emerged as a key limiting factor from the research, which included 22 projects across social, economic, cultural and biophysical themesresearch.. Across the different research domains, we found there was a lack of systematic language and conceptualisation of post-mine transition. Furthermore, there are no agreed concepts of what post-mine transition is or who is responsible for it. The language of transition is, in fact, barely mentioned in regulation or other forms of governance. This ambiguity contributes to confusion in mine closure planning, post-mine investment and regional planning for communities. Furthermore, this ambiguity creates a lack of clarity and information asymmetry for different voices across Traditional Owners, mining companies, regional communities, post-mine businesses and government. We need a new model that puts transition at the heart of mine closure, underpinned by an understanding of what post-mine transition means from different perspectives, and accompanying roles and responsibilities, before ‘successful mine closure’ can be achieved consistently.

Keywords: Transitions, Mine Closure, Values, CRC TiME, Relinquishment, Post Mine Land Use, Repurposing

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