Mine and facility closure trends

Mine and facility closure trends

The field has changed a lot since SRK’s last newsletter with a closure theme, which we issued in July 2000. The above photograph illustrates one example of the current state of the practice. The graphs below show how some of those changes are really part of long-term trends.

Let’s start with the graphs. In a recent knowledge mapping project, SRK found over 4000 publications related to mine closure, and analyzed them using the latest bibliometric and text analytic methods. The lower graph shows how the number of closure-related publications started increasing in the 1970s, and plateaued in the last decade. That tracks well with the beginnings of mine closure consulting practices in the early 1980s, expansion and growth for two decades, and today’s mature expertise.

The upper graph illustrates another trend in the mine closure literature. In the 1960s and early 1970s, the emphasis was on physical reclamation of pits and waste dumps. But through the 1980s and 1990s, other mine components began to receive more attention. The closure of waste rock and tailings now dominates the literature.

A simple word count shows a related shift. Since 2005, the terms “reclamation”, “closure” and “remediation” have been appearing in publications in roughly equal numbers. The term reclamation has been in use since the 1960s. But the more holistic closure only began to appear in the mid-70s. And remediation, with its connotations of fixing geochemical problems, first appeared only in the mid-80s.

A number of other trends became evident in our study, but the broad movement from physical remediation of pits and waste to holistic closure and remediation of geochemically challenged components is the most evident. And it also relates to this newsletter’s theme of “facility” closure. Perhaps it is just the current day commodity market, but SRK’s project lists show a distinct trend away from full mine closures and towards closure of selected minesite facilities. There are still many worthy challenges in the permanent mine closure world, and several articles here describe them. But the new challenges of interim closure, partial closure, and closing selected facilities, while continuing to operate a mine around them, also get some attention.

Back to the photograph. It shows Baker Creek, a stream flowing through the abandoned Giant Mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Environmental assessment and permitting of a closure plan for the site as a whole is in progress, but concerns about immediate risks led to this particular reach of the stream requiring early remediation. SRK completed engineering designs and construction oversight for that work, and regulators, local citizens and several dozen spawning fish have since indicated their approval of this particular facility closure.

Daryl Hockley: dhockley@srk.com

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Facility Closure newsletter 

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