MINING INDUSTRY POLICY EXTENSION

By Chris Tiemann

A number of State and Territory governments have developed mine closure policies and supporting guidelines to regulate the extractive industry. Many mining companies also have policies and standards that define how mine closure should be approached within their business. However the degree to which these policies, guidelines and standards are applied across State and Territory governments and between mining companies varies greatly. 

Background

The implications of closing a mine can have massive environmental, social and financial impacts and mine closure represents a significant cost to the Australian mining industry as well as regulatory risk. Currently mine closure is considered a liability by mining companies and is reported as such for stock listed companies. Effective mine closure planning at all stages in the operational life of a mine is critical to ensure that a) successful closure outcomes are achieved and b) the cost of closure (liability) is known, accounted for and minimised where possible. Integrating mine closure into life of mine plans can improve rehabilitation success and reduce liability. 

 

A number of State and Territory governments have developed mine closure policies and supporting guidelines to regulate the extractive industry. Many mining companies also have policies and standards that define how mine closure should be approached within their business. However the degree to which these policies, guidelines and standards are applied across State and Territory governments and between mining companies varies greatly. 

 

This PhD will begin by providing a baseline of mine closure policy positions for both governments and the industry to enable comparison and ultimately contribute to the establishment of a national mine closure policy approach.

 

Aims and Objectives

The PhD will consider mine closure policy at a national level, focusing on three broad groups: the mining industry, government (relevant agencies), and the community. Mine closure policy will be studied with respect to final land use, post mining activities, with ecological restoration being one of a number of possible outcomes. The research will determine how the principles of net-community benefit are currently applied and opportunities for embedding them in future mine closure policy. 

Ultimately the PhD will:

1) Map mine closure policy positions for government and industry and the standards/guidelines that underpin them; 

2) Document community values to embed social licence to operate into future National mine closure policy positions; and 

3) Generate key principles to inform development of a nationwide framework for mine closure policy in Australia

 

Significance

The mining industry is a significant contributor to the Australian economy with export earnings totalling $157 billion* in FY16. While the financial contribution of the industry cannot be understated, community expectations of the industry regarding environmental and social impacts are of ever increasing importance. The attainment of a social licence to operate continues to be an important factor in current and future mining developments and further highlights the need for a triple bottom line approach to mining. Mine closure and the legacy created by mining activities in this country is central to this debate and improving closure outcomes for the industry as a whole will ensure a sustainable future. This PhD will provide clarity on existing mine closure policy within government, industry and community groups across Australia to support the development of a national framework to guide future mine closure policy.