In a series of four articles, Katina De Sousa (Astron’s Principal Scientist – Rehabilitation) summarised:
- the lack of a documented process for relinquishment of mine sites in Western Australia and most mining jurisdictions in the world
- a five step relinquishment process developed by the Canadian National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI)
- development of a set of standardised completion criteria that define the conditions for the government to accept custody for a mine site
- the Institutional Control Program (ICP) developed by the Province of Saskatchewan that defines the conditions under which it will accept custodial responsibility for mine sites and provide long-term stewardship of each site.
In assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the three processes to address mine site relinquishment, Katina found that the ICP makes a good basis for the development of a relinquishment process for Western Australia because:
- it fits well with the regulatory regime already in place and
- appears to be working in Saskatchewan with six sites accepted since its inception.
This article provides more detail on how the Saskatchewan ICP works.
The ICP documents:
The Rules – The conditions under which the Government of Saskatchewan will accept responsibility for land impacted by mining that requires long-term monitoring and, in certain circumstances, maintenance.
The Funding – Funding mechanisms to cover costs associated with the monitoring and maintenance of relinquished sites.
The Implementation – The process for responsibility to be vested in a government department for implementation of required monitoring and maintenance activities on relinquished sites.
The transfer of a closed site into the ICP is initiated by the site holder submitting an application. Within the application the site holder must demonstrate how they have met the requirements for the Government to accept responsibility for the site. The application also includes a monitoring and maintenance plan that identifies the:
- ongoing monitoring and maintenance obligations that will need to be undertaken if the site is accepted into the ICP
- present value of future costs associated with those obligations (Hovdebo et al 2015).
The costs are reviewed and must be sufficient and appropriate to meet the long-term environmental, health and safety objectives required of the closed site.
Once the application is approved by the Ministry of Economy, Energy and Resources, the site holder is required to:
- submit a registration fee of $500 to provide for processing of applications, document transfer and program administration
- deposit funds into the Institutional Control Monitoring and Maintenance Fund (ICMMF) and Institutional Control Unforeseen Events Fund (ICUEF).
The site holders’ contribution to the ICMMF must be of a value to generate sufficient revenue to pay for the identified future monitoring and maintenance costs in perpetuity. The contribution to the ICUEF must be of sufficient value to generate revenue to pay the costs of future unforeseen events such as pit wall failure, premature degradation of a shaft cover or a change in regulatory requirements (Hovdebo et al 2015).
The ICMMF and ICUEF are managed separate from the province of Saskatchewan’s General Revenue Fund. Within the ICMFF each site-specific deposit is tracked individually and can only be accessed for site specific monitoring and maintenance. Funds deposited for one site cannot be used to fund expenditures at a different site.
Upon acceptance of a site into the ICP, monitoring and maintenance of the site is conducted by the Government of Saskatchewan in accordance with the monitoring and maintenance plan submitted by the site holder using the funds deposited into the ICMMF. If required, the funds in the ICUEF can be used for future clean-up costs arising from unforeseen circumstances to limit the Province’s liability.
Hovdebo, DG, Cunningham, KE, Kristoff, DM and Webster, MS 2015, ‘Post-closure stewardship of mine sites: institutional control in Saskatchewan – a case history’, Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Mine Closure, Vancouver, Canada, 2015, InfoMine, pp. 23-36.