Defining closure objectives to minimize risks and maximize benefits

Tommi Kauppila, Geological Survey of Finland, PO Box 1237, 70211 Kuopio, Finland;

The backbones of any Mine Closure Plan are the Closure Objectives (goals) and the Actions needed to achieve these goals. Considerable effort is usually put into identifying widely accepted post-mining land uses and defining closure objectives consistent with these land uses. However, there are other factors that affect the selection of Closure Objectives besides the post-closure land use of the mine site.

Figure 1. Factors to consider when defining mine closure objectives to simultaneously minimize risks and maximize sustainable benefits.

Figure 1 depicts factors that affect the setting out of Closure Objectives. The scheme underlines the importance of not only the technical and environmental issues and risks involved with closing a mine but also the opportunities, the local communities, and the importance of looking forward. The aim is thus to minimize risks and negative consequences and to simultaneously enhance opportunities associated with mine closure. ICMM (2008) presents tools for assessing and managing both risks and opportunities while Laurence (2006) discusses optimisation of the mine closure process employing a closure risk model.

The risks and opportunities involved with mine closure can be studied twice when defining Closure Objectives. First, a general level identification of the risks and opportunities is performed early in the project to inform the process and stakeholder consultations when discussing post-mining land uses and post-mining communities. This is a useful exercise even if the planned life of mine is long because it emphasizes the post-mining life of the region. These issues are revisited at the end of the project, when the decision to close the mine has been made and more detailed closure planning is commenced.

Socio-economic considerations

Many of the benefits that are to be gained upon mine closure (‘opportunities’) are related to sustaining the economic and social benefits that the mine has brought with it. When a mine closes, or even downsizes, some of the workers will move elsewhere, there will be a decrease in the demand of services and housing, and less taxes will be paid. Social structures and networks and the whole identity of a region may change. To minimize these negative consequences of mine closure and to balance them with new opportunities, thorough social and economic impact analyses should be made (e.g., Kemp et al. 2007) . This information can then be used when designing measures to counteract the impacts of the mine closing. As with impact analysis in general, special attention should be paid to the most vulnerable groups that are most affected by the closure.

Long-term sustainability is the key also with the socio-economic mitigation measures. Long standing direct support from the mining company is not a feasible solution in most cases. This should also be reflected in the closure management plan because measures such as diversification of the local economy or handover of previously company run functions to public operators must be started early in the project. Close co-operation with the local and regional authorities is essential for effective and sustainable results.


ICMM 2008. Planning for Integrated Mine Closure, Toolkit. International Council for Mining and Metals, London, 84 p.

Kemp, D., Clark, P. & Zhang, T. 2007. Estimating socio-economic impacts of mine closure. Research paper No. 8, Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, The University of Queensland, Australia, 19 p.

Laurence, D. 2006. Optimisation of the mine closure process. Journal of Cleaner Production 14, 285-298.