Today is the day that we sign, seal and deliver our continuous conversation about The Life Cycle of a Mine. For me personally, this part of the cycle is detrimental and not big enough of a concern for many mine companies.
All operating mines have a lifespan; they don’t ‘live’ forever. Once the valuable minerals and deposits have been sourced out, the last phase of the mine life cycle begins, namely closure which normally lasts between 2 -10 years. Other factors can lead to the closure of a mine from increased production costs to harmful environmental impacts. Influences as such can financially cripple the mine, bringing its life span to an end.
It is an ethical stipulation that mine organisations take their surrounding community into consideration at all times, and especially when the mine shuts down. The local communities should be secured with a smooth transition phase post closure of the mine.
Aspects such as water treatment and control are critical when it comes to the closure of a mine and sometimes the company is not only required to monitor the closure phase but also provide endless funding. The process of converting an operating mine to a closed operation involves 3 main phases:
•Decommissioning is when the mine infrastructure is dismantled such as facilities and buildings. It also involves the rehabilitation of any contaminated area on the site, for example a historical fuel spill.
•Final reclamation is when the disturbed areas are completely restored, for example re-vegetating.
•Post-closure care and maintenance is an important component that allows for the monitoring and measurement for the success of reclamation, long-term water capture and management.
Evidently, mine owners and companies need to work alongside environmental engineers as THEY are the specialists with the needed knowledge and skill to ensure safe environmental keeping. Such engineers work with biologists, chemists, ecologists, wildlife specialists, and ranchers, along with equipment operators, nursery staff, and agronomists’, ensuring the site is left in a safe and fruitful state, as similar in presence to the surrounding landscape as possible.