Engaging stakeholders in the mine closure process
Tommi Kauppila, Geological Survey of Finland, PO Box 1237, 70211 Kuopio, Finland; tommi.kauppila(at)gtk.fi
Successful closure planning and management require early and continuous engagement with both external and internal stakeholders. External stakeholders can contribute their views, local knowledge, concerns, and expectations regarding mine closure and post closure life in the region while internal stakeholders within the mining project are essential for harnessing and committing the resources of the organization to both planning the closure and, especially, operating the mine for closure.
Early mine closure planning and EIA are closely related
In most mining projects, early mine closure planning and the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process occur at the same time, often starting when the project is in the pre-feasibility or, sometimes, feasibility stage. Mine closure also is a critical part of the life cycle of a mine in the EIA context. It is, therefore, advisable to manage these two processes together and to utilize the same methods and opportunities of stakeholder engagement for both processes. After all, the environmental impact assessment procedure is designed to act as a vehicle for communicating the project to the stakeholders and in most jurisdictions involves extensive public participation dictated by legislation (public announcements, hearings and statements). In addition to the minimum interaction required by legislation, most mine developers engage in much wider community consultations in the early phase of the project. The eventual mine closure should be part of these consultations, to give especially the local communities a realistic view of the mining project and an opportunity to express their views of the post closure land use and life in the area when the mine has closed. However, care must be taken to clearly separate the mine closure planning that goes beyond the scope of the EIA from the EIA process so that the stakeholders always know for which process their inputs are requested.
A balanced view of the outcomes of closure
There are several aims of stakeholder consultation over mine closure. The general aim is to inform the external stakeholders of closure and to formulate a common view of the post closure land uses and other outcomes of closure. A more detailed list is given below (adapted from ICMM 2008):
- Inform stakeholders of mine closure as an integral and important part of the project life cycle, facilitating informed participation of stakeholders in the process
- Remind stakeholders that all mines eventually close and preparations must be made to sustain the benefits of the mining project after closure
- Examine the risks of mine closure but also aim to maximize the opportunities involved
- Determine the groups of stakeholders that are most affected by and dependent on the mining operation, those that are interested, and those that have most influence on successful closure
- Collect, collate, understand, and balance the views, expectations, and goals of the various stakeholders (mining company, authorities, local communities, regional and national government, NGOs etc.)
- Formulate a balanced, realistic and achievable closure outcome and a view of the post closure uses of the site
- Engage relevant stakeholders to work with the mining company for best closure outcomes as sustainable benefits are critically dependent on the local community, authorities, and governments
Engaging with stakeholders is a continuous exercise
While the most intensive period of stakeholder engagement may be at the pre-feasibility stage of the project, the activities should be continued throughout the life cycle of the operation (Figure 1). This is because communities evolve and conditions change, affecting the views, concerns and expectations of the stakeholders. New opportunities also may arise. Continuous and consistent engagement during the project is the way to capture these changes but the frequency and tools should be adapted to the phase of the project. A major phase of stakeholder consultations commences when the final decision to close the mine has been made and the end date of operations is known. At this stage, the engagement should be at least as intensive as at the beginning of the mining operation. A more thorough discussion on integrating stakeholder engagement in the project cycle in general can be found in Part 2, Integrating Stakeholder Engagement with the Project Cycle of IFC (2007).
Figure 1. Intensity of stakeholder consultation during the mine closure process (a hypothetical life cycle of a mine).
Details of engaging stakeholders in mine closure process are discussed in the following pages:
- Identifying and working with external stakeholders
- Internal stakeholders
- Stakeholder roles and responsibilities
ICMM 2008. Planning for Integrated Mine Closure: Toolkit. International Council on Mining and Metals, London, UK. 84 p
IFC 2007. Stakeholder Engagement: A Good Practice Handbook for Companies Doing Business in Emerging Markets. International Finance Corporation, Washington DC, USA, 201 p.