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Mine closure is an area where the mining industry can demonstrate its commitment to the principles of
sustainability. Within the minerals sector, the emphasis though has been on the need to consider strategies
and activities in advance. While it is essential that planning for mine closure is done at the earliest stage
possible, certain cases, particularly in many developing countries, demonstrate that this is not always
possible. On the ground, there is often a relatively short duration, if at all, between preparing closure plans
and the actual closure of mine operations. This paper examines a case in which the key social actors in the
mine closure process, mainly a mining company and a large community, were caught up in situations where
they had to adopt innovations that are expedient. The actions of the company and the responses of the
community were contingent on circumstances that could not have been predicted if mine closure was
planned by the company several years ago, much less many decades ago. In a convoluted way, efforts at
preventing previously ‘abandoned’ mine workings from impairment is tied to the social imperative of
addressing people’s need for livelihood. In turn, business viability can be ensured.
The paper contributes to understanding the complex socio-economic, political and business realities that
shape the context of implementing protocols and principles of mine closure. On a higher plane, the paper
demonstrates that planning for, and implementing, mine closure successfully does not simply require good
legislation, financial guarantees, and mechanisms for monitoring and auditing. These are factors that indeed
ensure a workable closure plan. However, an understanding of the complex institutional, economic, political
and cultural milieu, within which closure principles, strategies and activities are realized, is paramount.
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