Post closure land uses guide closure planning
Tommi Kauppila, Geological Survey of Finland, PO Box 1237, 70211 Kuopio, Finland; tommi.kauppila(at)gtk.fi
Post-mining land uses are usually discussed early in the project to guide the definition of closure objectives. The aim is to identify and to regularly review the planned post mining land uses in a consultation process with the key stakeholders. However, there may be legislative requirements that affect the post mining land uses that are available for consideration. For instance, the Guidelines for Preparing Mine Closure Plans for Western Australia (Government of Western Australia, Department of Mines and Petroleum & Environmental Protection Agency 2011) define a hierarchy of post-mining land uses:
- Reinstate “natural” ecosystems as similar as possible to the original ecosystem
- Develop an alternative land use with higher beneficial uses than the pre-mining land use
- Reinstate the pre-mining land use
- Develop an alternative land use with other beneficial uses than the pre-mining land use
The western Australian hierarchy thus heavily prioritizes natural ecosystems over even the pre-mining land uses. However, the land ownership and spatial planning conditions provide a framework for the post mining land uses in most jurisdictions.
Post-mining use of the industrial site and its facilities
For mines in industrialized and densely populated regions, post mining land use may also be ‘post mining site use’, referring to the use of the infrastructures of the mine for other industrial, business or public purposes. Perhaps the most common of such uses is the conversion of the processing plant to process other types of ores and minerals, transported to the site from other mines within acceptable transport distances. Mineral processing facilities can also be used to process certain types of wastes, such as slags from metallurgical plants.
In all cases, it is highly recommended to explore the possibilities of using the existing infrastructure in future mining operations in the region. Such extensions of the life of e.g. the processing plant and the waste facilities is in accordance with the principles of sustainable development as it may eliminate the need to build separate facilities at each new mine. Existing infrastructures also encourage concentration of mining activities in brownfield areas and may help in extending the life span of whole mining camps. This may be a good alternative from an environmental point of view, compared to opening new greenfields sites, if the cumulative environmental effects are duly considered.
There are numerous examples worldwide of creative post mining site uses ranging from industrial parks to golf courses, airports, residential areas, hotels, historical attractions etc. One of the most interesting must be the Eden Project in Cornwall, the UK, which is a tourist attraction with giant biomes that house an artificial rainforest, exotic plants etc. The Eden Project (www.edenproject.com) has published a book called “101 things to do with a hole in the ground” (Pearman 2009) which presents interesting cases of converted mine and quarry sites. The Project is also constantly collecting new cases of innovative post mining site uses. Such cases may serve as an inspiration when planning the post mining land uses because they illustrate that rehabilitation to the original land use is not the only option for mine closure.
Government of Western Australia, Department of Mines and Petroleum & Environmental Protection Agency 2011. Guidelines for Preparing Mine Closure Plans. 78 p. http://www.dmp.wa.gov.au/documents/Mine_Closure%282%29.pdf
Pearman, G. 2009. 101 things to do with a hole in the ground. Eden Project. 132 p.