A mine, once opened, has to ultimately be closed once the resource or mineral asset has been depleted or if mining activity has stopped. South Africa, like other mining jurisdictions, is home to thousands of defunct mines that retain wide ranging environmental, social, health and safety risks. Most of these mines are ownerless and derelict, which has meant that the responsibility to manage the ongoing environmental risks and social issues has fallen on the government to manage.
To prevent the continued abandonment of mine sites, several tools are used by regulators to ensure that there is sufficient funding to manage the risks associated with achieving mine closure. Integrated closure planning ensures that mine closure activities are carried out concurrently with mining activities and that they are monitored and reported on by the operators. Typically, the development and implementation of a closure plan occurs as the mine approaches end of life.
This approach to focussing on legal closure has meant the many opportunities that a mine closure process presents are overlooked. Mine closure presents one of the greatest opportunities to innovate for the future landscape of the mine and to make a measurable and sustainable difference in mining communities while contributing to optimising and reducing financial provisions for closure activities.