Authors: Purtill, JA

Open access courtesy of:


Cite As:
Purtill, JA 2023, 'Re-thinking our model of mine rehabilitation and closure—is it time for a new model of mined lands stewardship?', 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,

Download citation as:   ris   bibtex   endnote   text   Zotero

In Australia, as in many jurisdictions, (apart from the USA where the situation is more complicated) earth resources are typically owned by government. Mining companies apply for mining leases to extract those resources. A royalty is paid to the government as consideration for the extracted resource. Extracting mineral and petroleum resources has impacts. Open cut mining creates voids and out-of-pit waste structures. Underground mining may result in subsidence and waste structures on the surface. Ore beneficiation creates waste streams that can lead to environmental impacts, such as the daylighting of materials long sequestered underground. Many long-lived mines have not retained viable topsoil, or those that have can still face deficit challenges, simply from the new geometry and bulking volume of disturbed materials forming waste structures. These impacts are well-known and have been apparent for decades. When governments approve a mining lease, the expectation is that the land will be restored to its pre-mining state, that ecosystems can be restored, that agricultural lands can be reintroduced into production. However, we see that globally, the examples of complex mines returning to a safe, stable, non-polluting state, capable of sustaining a post-mining land use, are modest, to say the least. Yet we see this expectation or variations on it, persist around the world. At the same time global demand for natural resources, especially those facilitating the transition to a low-carbon economy, continues to increase. It is time to explore new paradigms of mined land stewardship - models in which governments and miners take on new responsibilities for the impacts from natural resource extraction. A new paradigm would not see regulators and miners so much ‘meet in the middle’ as move respectively towards management regimes that protect our limited natural resources, the environment, and the social-ecological systems in which mines operate. This paper reviews the status of ‘successful’ mine closure, presents some of the behaviours apparent in the industry regarding mine closure, and proposes some potential opportunities to re-imagine the mine closure task from a liability-laden burden to a long-term stewardship model.

Keywords: progressive rehabilitation, mine closure, stewardship models

ABC News. (n.d.). AGL Energy abandons plans to demerge coal generation business. Retrieved April 10, 2023, from
Alcoa. (n.d.). Anglesea power station mine site. Retrieved June 16, 2023, from
AngloAmerican. (2019). Mine closure toolbox - version 3. AngloAmerican, 64.
Audit Office of New South Wales. (2017). New South Wales Auditor-General’ s Report Performance Audit Managing contaminated sites The role of the Auditor-General.
Australian Government. (2006). Mine closure and completion : Leading Practice Sustainable Development Program for the mining industry / Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources Dept. of Industry, Tourism and Resources Canberra.
Barrick Australia. (2012a). Timbarra Gold Mine Mine Closure. Mining Lease 1386 Relinquishment Assurance Report. September 2012.
Barrick Australia. (2012b). Timbarra Gold Mine Mine Closure. Relinquishment Assurance Report for Mining Lease 1426. February 2012.
BHP. (2018). Submission to the Economics and Governance Committee review of the Mineral and Energy Resources (Financial Provisioning) Bill 2018. In Https://Medium.Com/.
BHP. (2020). Mt Arthur Coal Annual Review FY20.
Butler, H., & Bentel, G. (2011). Mine relinquishment – processes and learnings. Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Mine Closure, 3–11.
Calvo, G., & Valero, A. (2022). Strategic mineral resources: Availability and future estimations for the renewable energy sector. Environmental Development, 41(November 2020), 100640.
Campbell, R., Linqvist, J., Browne, B., Swann, T., & Grundoff, M. (2017). What We Do and Don ’ t Know about mines, closures and rehabilitation (Issue April).
Chan, R. (2022). Chuwar first Qld coal mine to be fully rehabilitated. Australian Mining.
Commonwealth of Australia. (2019). Senate Inquiry - Environment and Communications References Committee Rehabilitation of mining and resources projects and power station ash dams as it relates to Commonwealth responsibilities (Issue March).
Delevinge, L., Glazener, W., Gregoir, L., & Henderson, K. (2020). Climate risk and decarbonization: What every mining CEO needs to know. McKinsey & Company. $~$/media/McKinsey/Business Functions/Sustainability/Our Insights/Climate risk and decarbonization What every mining CEO needs to know/Climate-risk-and-decarbonization-What-every-mining-CEO-needs-to-know.ashx.
Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, W. A. (2022). Annual Report 2021-22.
Earth Resources Regulation. (2020). Preparation of Rehabilitation Plans (Issue February). Victorian Government.
EY. (2023). Top 10 business risks and opportunities for mining and metals in 2023.
Faizuldayeva, Z. (2016). A comparative study of regulatory approaches to mine closure with a special emphasis on the current situation in the former Soviet Union. Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Mine Closure, 355–367.
Finucane-Woodman, M. (2017). Mining Tenure Relinquishment in Western Australia.
Giese, E. C. (2022). Strategic minerals: Global challenges post-COVID-19. Extractive Industries and Society, July 2021, 101113.
Glencore. (n.d.). Westside Open Cut. N.D. Retrieved January 22, 2023, from
Glencore. (2021). Mangoola Coal Annual Report and forward Program.
Government of Victoria. (2018). State of Discovery: mineral resources strategy 2018-2023.
Government of Western Australia. (2020). Statutory Guidelines for Mine Closure Plans (version 4 updated January 2023) (Issue March).
Grant, C. (2006). Decommissioning Alcoa’s First Bauxite Mine in the Jarrah Forest of Western Australia ⎯ Cradle to Grave. Proceedings of the First International Seminar on Mine Closure, 287–297.
Holcombe, S., & Keenan, J. (2020). Mining as a temporary land use scoping project: transitions and repurposing. The Social Aspects of Mine Closure Research Consortium, March. as a temporary land use scoping project tr.pdf%0A
ICMM. (2019). Integrated Mine Closure Good Practice Guide (2nd ed.). International Council on Mining and Metals.
Idemitsu. (n.d.). Idemitsu Kosan announces the sale of its stake in Ensham coal mine. Retrieved June 16, 2023, from
Kabir, S. M. Z., Rabbi, F., & Chowdhury, M. B. (2015). Mine Closure Planning and Practice in Canada and Australia : A Comparative Review. World Review of Business Research, 5(3), 1–22.
Keenan, J., & Holcombe, S. (2021). Mining as a temporary land use: A global stocktake of post-mining transitions and repurposing. Extractive Industries and Society, May, 100924.
Kung, A., Everingham, J., & Vivoda, V. (2020). Social aspects of mine closure: governance & regulation (Issue March).
Lamb, D., Erskine, P. D., & Fletcher, A. (2015). Widening gap between expectations and practice in Australian minesite rehabilitation. Ecological Management & Restoration, 16(3), 186–195.
Laurence, D. (2006). Why Do Mines Close? Proceedings of the First International Seminar on Mine Closure, 83–94.
Lèbre, É., Owen, J. R., Kemp, D., & Valenta, R. K. (2022). Complex orebodies and future global metal supply: An introduction. Resources Policy, 77(March).
Lèbre, É., Owen, J. R., Stringer, M., Kemp, D., & Valenta, R. K. (2021). Global Scan of Disruptions to the Mine Life Cycle: Price, Ownership, and Local Impact. Environmental Science and Technology, 55(8), 4324–4331.
Marlow, D. (2016). Rehabilitation of land disturbed by mining and extractive industries in Queensland: Some needed legislative and management reforms. The Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland, 121, 39–51.
Mining Association of Canada. (2021). The State of Canada’s Mining Industry Facts and Figures 2021.
Morrison-Saunders, A., McHenry, M. P., Sequeira, A. R., Gorey, P., Mtegha, H., & Doepel, D. (2016). Integrating mine closure planning with environmental impact assessment: challenges and opportunities drawn from African and Australian practice. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 34(2), 117–128.
Mudd, G. M. (2009). The Sustainability of Mining in Australia : Key Production Trends and Their Environmental Implications for the Future (Issue April). Monash University.
Mudd, G. M. (2010). The Environmental sustainability of mining in Australia: key mega-trends and looming constraints. In Resources Policy (Vol. 35, Issue 2). Elsevier.
Muswellbrook Coal Company Limited. (2014). Annual Environmental Management Report 2013-14. Muswellbrook Coal Company.
NSW Resources Regulator. (n.d.). Mine Rehabilitation Regulatory Framework. Regulatory Process over the Life of a Mining Project. No Date. Retrieved January 21, 2023, from
NSW Resources Regulator. (2021). Guideline: Achieving rehabilitation completion (sign off).
Parker, T. (n.d.). Teck rejects $34B merger offer from Glencore. Australian Resources Investment.
Pepper, M. (2020). CARE AND MAINTENANCE A LOOPHOLE OR LIFELINE? The Policy and Practice of Mines in Care and Maintenance in Australia. Murdoch University.
Queensland Government. (2021). Guideline - Progressive rehabilitation and closure plans (PRC plans). Department of Environment and Science, Queensland Government.
Queensland Government. (2022). Financial Provisioning Scheme post transition review discussion paper. The State of Queenlsand (Queensland Treasury).
Sanders, J. and Murphy, M. (2019). From reclamation to relinquishment: is this an achievable goal in British Columbia?.
Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources. (2018). Post Closure Management of Decommissioned Mine/Mill Properties Located on Crown Land in Saskatchewan (Institutional Control Program). December, 30 pp.
Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources. (2022). Annual Report 2021-22.
Sassoon, M. (2009). Financial Surety : Guidelines for the Implementation of Financial Surety for Mine Closure. Finan Extractive industries and development series;no. 7. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. .
The State of Queensland. (1991). An Agreement between the State of Queensland and Mount Morgan Limited on Decommissioning of Mining Leases at Mount Morgan.
Tiemann, C. D., McDonald, M. C., Middle, G., & Dixon, K. W. (2019). Mine relinquishment policy in Australia. Proceedings of the International Conference on Mine Closure, 2019-Septe(2016), 1451–1460.
Tiemann, C., MacDonald, V., Young, R., & Dixon, K. (2022). Rehabilitation and mine closure policies creating a pathway to relinquishment: an Australian perspective. Restoration Ecology, 30(S1).
Unger, C. (2017). Legacy Issues and Abandoned Mines (T. P. In:T. O’Callaghan, G. Graetz (eds.), Mining in the Asia-Pacific & E. of the A. Pacific (eds.)).
Unger, C. J., Everingham, J.-A., & Bond, C. J. (2020). Transition or transformation: shifting priorities and stakeholders in Australian mined land rehabilitation and closure. Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, 27(1), 84–113.
World Bank Group. (2021). MINE CLOSURE : A Toolbox for Goverments.
Yancoal. (2021). Stratford Mining Complex Annual Review 2021.
Young, E. (2018). Mine rehab in WA is the pits: Inquiry finds few success stories. WAToday.

© Copyright 2024, Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG), The University of Western Australia. All rights reserved.
View copyright/legal information
Please direct any queries or error reports to