Mine closure consists of decommissioning and mine site reclamation

Tommi Kauppila, Geological Survey of Finland, PO Box 1237, 70211 Kuopio, Finland; tommi.kauppila(at)gtk.fi

Mine closure consists of two major types of activity: decommissioning and rehabilitation. Decommissioning involves permanently ending the mining and mineral processing operations and removing all the equipment and facilities that are not destined to remain in place for future use.

Reclamation is usually the more extensive part of mine closure and refers to reclaiming the mine site to other sustainable uses as defined in closure management plans. Certain parts of the mine site may allow complete restoration of the original, pre-mining ecosystem while others may need to be rehabilitated to what is only partially similar to the original state of the land. Some of the mine site soils that form the substrate for the ecosystem may be contaminated and require remediation before they can support the restored or rehabilitated biological communities. Hydrological and other physical conditions also need to be brought to a state that facilitates the desired ecosystems and their functioning.

In most cases, reinstating the pre-mining vegetation and other biological communities is by no means the only aim of the site reclamation process. The goals depend on the desired post mining land uses that have originally been defined early in the project based on extensive stakeholder consultation and refined along the way during the operating period of the mine. Reclamation thus involves all the activities that are needed to bring all parts of the site to a safe and physically, chemically and biologically stable state that facilitates the planned post mining uses of the site.

Besides decommissioning the facilities and reclaiming the mine site to new uses, a third type of activity is usually included in modern mine closure projects. These are actions that are aimed at sustaining the socio-economic benefits of the mining operations, offsetting the negative impacts of mine closure. These activities may not involve just the mine site but also the environment and communities within the sphere of influence of the mine. These activities have sometimes been called ‘regeneration’ (e.g., http://www.postmining.org/post-mining-regeneration-glossary.php).

Concepts of mine closure are described in more detail in the following pages: