Part 2 - Relinquishment Process
In Western Australia there is currently no documented process for relinquishment of mine sites. The situation is similar across Australia with all states generally lacking regulation of mine relinquishment (Pepper et al 2014). This creates uncertainty around how to go about relinquishing a site after it has been closed and a situation where there is increased risk of sites being abandoned, especially during periods of low commodity prices. A study conducted by the Canada Mining Innovation Council determined that relinquishment is held back by a lack of comprehensive legal and regulatory regimes (Holmes et al 2015).
So do we have any lessons to learn from Canada where they have recently developed three different approaches for dealing with mine closure and relinquishment? In the second of this four part series, Katina De Sousa (Astron’s Principal Scientist – Rehabilitation) explores the key components, strengths and weaknesses of a relinquishment process developed by the National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI).
Based on the findings from case studies of six closed sites, NOAMI developed a five step process (or decision tree) for regulators and industry to follow when determining if a site could, or should, be returned to the government (Cowan et al 2013, Gardiner et al 2015). The process follows the natural progression from submitting an application through to implementation.
There are strengths and weaknesses of the system devised by NOAMI:
• A documented relinquishment process provides guidance and certainty for mining companies and makes the assessment of mine closure more structured.
• The government can set the bar regarding what is the minimum acceptable standard for relinquishment of sites.
• The NOAMI approach does not appear to have been implemented in Canada yet so may still have some teething problems to be sorted out.
• Does not deal with management of mine sites post-relinquishment.
• Funding mechanisms for post-relinquishment monitoring and maintenance activities are not outlined, but are required as part of the relinquishment process.
Introducing a similar documented relinquishment process in Western Australia would be a definite improvement and a step in the right direction as it provides clarity for both mining companies and the government. However, the NOAMI process does not deal with all aspects relating to relinquishment, mainly post-relinquishment site management and funding.
In the next article in this series, Katina will assess whether the establishment of a standard set of completion criteria will facilitate the mine relinquishment process.
Cowan, WR, Mackasey, WO and Robertson, JGA 2013, Case studies and decision making process for the relinquishment of closed mine sites.
Gardiner, EJ, Cowan, WR, Tremblay, GA and Hogan, CM 2015, ‘Managing long-term orphaned mine liabilities: exploring the relinquishment of closed sites’, Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Mine Closure, Vancouver, Canada, 2015, InfoMine, pp. 14-22.
Holmes, R, Flynn, M and Thorpe, MB 2015, ‘A framework for standardised, performance-based completion criteria for mine closure and mine site relinquishment’, Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Mine Closure, Vancouver, Canada, 2015, InfoMine, pp. 121-130.
Pepper, M, Roche, CP and Mudd, GM 2015, ‘Mining Legacies – Understanding Life-of-Mine Across Time and Space’, Proceedings of the Life-of-Mine 2014 Conference, Brisbane, Australia, pp. 449-465.