Building closure into every step of a mine’s lifecycle has become a common approach but is difficult to do
Industry best practices advise mining companies to begin their closure process early so that unnecessary work can be avoided, and the obligations are well defined. Starting early also provides an opportunity for mine stakeholders to be consulted – reducing the likelihood of conflicts and improving the chances for a satisfactory post-mining outcome.
Closure planning process
Good closure management needs a systematic approach, with closure planning considerations factored in at all levels of a mine’s operations. This starts with company leaders prioritizing the plan and ensuring its importance is recognized and passed down through middle management and the entire workforce, says Peter de San Miguel, Discipline Lead – Approvals and Compliance, at Stantec. According to de San Miguel, one of the ways to drive implementation of closure planning systems is to include closure planning goals in Key Performance Indicator (KPIs). For example, incorporating reclamation into a site manager’s list of KPIs ensures that closure remains on the agenda. Managers who achieve their closure targets (for instance reducing the area of disturbance) could be incentivized with a bonus.
de San Miguel offered a gold mine in Western Australia, where Stantec has been working since 2016 to implement the closure plan, as a successful example of this approach.
“This mine has broad KPIs to reclaim certain areas of the mine site each year. They’ve actually broken the plan down and assigned task and financial KPIs to key managers. So [the managers] are invested in when and how those projects are completed. This is an extremely effective way to get things done.”
An added bonus of having a comprehensive management system in place, and showing that it is being implemented, is getting regulators on board.
“Having a well-established closure system gives the regulators confidence that you understand the risks in the process and that you have a system that will continue to identify, mitigate and review those risks.” he said.
Closure management tool
Having long-term goals for mine closure and implementing the measures to achieve those goals is something that Stantec facilitates through a system of Progressive Rehabilitation and Closure. PRAC™ was developed to provide mining companies with a software tool that provides a systematic approach to closure through approaches such as capturing all closure-related data in one location.
Over 20 years of working with mining companies planning and executing closure, Stantec found mines often had the information needed to inform their decisions but could not find it or did not use it. Often it was stored by different departments or in various libraries and knowledge crucial to closure activities was being lost. One of the functions of PRAC™ is an advanced ability for companies to manage closure-related knowledge, and then link that knowledge to specific closure tasks that are developed through the closure planning process. PRAC™ then tracks and reports on the completion of these closure tasks.
The cloud-based PRAC™ is accessed via a web login. Generally, Stantec builds the basic PRAC™ site, provides training and a user manual, and the client curates the site’s information, with support from Stantec as required.
Information is accessed through a graphical interface, linked to a database that can store various types of data, information or reports. Data can be categorized in a variety of different ways, enhancing how it is archived and – importantly – searched. Data can be accessed directly by clicking a feature on PRAC™’s map, allowing easy visual access to the site’s closure knowledge. Output includes closure task planning and management, calendars, progress reports and email alerts. Tasks can be accessed and updated remotely or from the field via the web. Dashboard reporting is designed to generate monthly or annual reports tailored to a mine’s specific requirements, but generally covering planned activities, actual progress, spending and residual risks.
PRAC™ tracks liability reduction and costs across portfolios
While PRAC™ is designed for managing closure at individual mines, Stantec has also developed tools that enable management of mine closure at multiple mines simultaneously. That way a mining company can prioritize and manage liabilities across their portfolio.
“When each closure task is complete, it’s uploaded into a corporate platform so senior executives see how all the individual sites are progressing. They can see what KPIs they’re hitting, where they’re falling behind. The scale at which they’re able to progress and monitor their achievements will set the benchmark for the industry,” says de San Miguel.
de San Miguel noted that no matter the size of the mine, or whether a company is using a mine-specific software like Stantec’s PRAC™, “the concepts are the same. You need a good closure planning process, a good management system to back up your decisions and you need tools like PRAC™ to execute and to demonstrate progress.”
Content originally published in mining.com.
About the author
A snowboarder and triathlete, Peter leads an energetic life. He brings that energy to his work visiting mines and coming up with tailored environmental solutions. As team lead for approvals and compliance in our Perth office, Peter and his team help guide our clients through the management of all environmental aspects on their operations, while ensuring they comply with legislative requirements. He also manages our mine closure software, PRAC™.