Closure and Completion Phase


Claude Kabemba's picture

Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW)

January 13th, 2014


Mine closure design and planning (including the setting of objectives) must be developed and updated throughout the project, including during exploration, pre‐feasibility, feasibility, approval, construction, operation, decommissioning, closure of operations, and post‐closure biophysical and social monitoring. The mine closure process must be an on-going process that incorporates frequent reviews and adjustments in recognition of the changing social, economic and environmental situations. Where mining activities have continued for decades, mining communities get established and closure of the mine means not only a loss of jobs but also serious disruption to community life. Whenever mine closure becomes necessary, it should be orderly, systematic and planned to help the workers and dependent communities to cope without undue hardship.

Recommended Principles and Guidelines on The Closure And Completion Phase

i.            Mining companies must accept the principle of mine completion beyond closure since many social and environmental impacts continue long after closure.

ii.            Government must accept the principle that they can hold mining companies responsible for impacts beyond closure.

iii.            Government must take appropriate measures to monitor the mine closure activities of companies.

iv.            The concept of ‘design for closure’ (and completion) must be applied in the design of all mining projects.

v.            Design for closure requires that the full mine-life cycle – from development to closure – be considered in the design of mine components so that the desired mine closure conditions are achieved.

vi.            Design for closure must also consider the potential, practical and financial implications of temporarily halting operations or early closure of the mine.

vii.            A detailed geological survey must be carried out to ascertain mine life spans in order to put in place contingency measures for closure.

viii.            Rehabilitation work must be undertaken during all phases of the operation rather than defer all these costs to the end of the project.

ix.            Protective measures to secure abandoned mine sites must be implemented to eliminate or minimise risks to the health and safety of the community.

x.            The buyer of a mining right accepts full responsibility for all impacts of the extractive operation, including those of any previous companies. The bad practices of a previous operator should not be used as an excuse by the current operator.

xi.            Governments must put in place post-mining regeneration priorities, which include restoration of land surface to a sufficient quality to support pre-mining land use activities and the restoration of the ecological function of mined land. In the case of previously-degraded land, the ecological function of the land must be improved.

xii.            Mine closure planning must be linked to local economic development plans to ensure that post mining land uses are compatible with surrounding development initiatives.

xiii.            Every mining project must consider the contribution required to create a sustainable community and environment on closure and how to minimise dependency on the mine during the life of mine so that alternative economies are promoted before closure.

xiv.            Revenues from mining must be used for diversification of the economy to ensure sustainability of livelihoods after the end of mining activities.

xv.            Communities (and all other stakeholders) have a right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Therefore, closure plans must respect the rights of communities and individuals.

xvi.            There must be transparent and full consultation between all stakeholders during closure planning and implementation processes. Local authorities must be mandated by law to oversee mine closure and the subsequent land rehabilitation process.

xvii.            The full range of impacts – negative, positive and cumulative – of mining activities must be taken into account in the combined project management and risk management approaches to mine closure.

xviii.            Closure funds must be jointly and transparently managed by the mining company, Government and affected communities.

xix.            Government must regulate that all companies create a fund for the rehabilitation or restoration of the ecosystem upon closure of the resource extraction activity.

xx.            Mining companies must implement best practices in their operations, including ecosystem restoration.

xxi.            Mining companies must generate financial resources that – after the closure of the mine – are invested into economic and social activities for local communities, and ecosystem restoration.

xxii.            Mining sites must be transformed at closure into something that can contribute to local communities, that is, either restored to agricultural or grazing land, or turned into recreational sites or even national parks.

xxiii.            Mine site reclamation and rehabilitation is a multidisciplinary process that is very site-specific and must be adapted to local conditions and environmental and social characteristics. The clear definition of the future land use is an essential requirement that must be addressed prior to initiating any reclamation activities.

xxiv.            Acid mine drainage is one of the main environmental issues associated with closure activities and it is critical to have reliable and accessible mine waste characterization procedures in place so as to correctly predict this problem.

xxv.            Government should mandate and verify that mining companies produce due diligence reports on the state of the mines in cases where a company intends to sell mining rights in an operating mine. This is important to prevent locals or indigenous players from buying or investing in shells/exhausted mines.


Typical social risks include conflict over land use and ownership, effects on historic remains or culturally valued landscape elements, obstruction or changes in the local community’s use of natural resources through physical impairment of the land (such as subsidence) or through contamination of soil, air or water resource. Extractive companies must collaborate with interested and affected communities and individuals.


About the author(s)

Claude Kabemba is the Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW). In 2006, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) asked him to spearhead the formation of SARW. He holds a PhD in International Relations (Political economy) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Thesis: Democratisation and the Political Economy of a Dysfunctional State: The Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo). Before joining SARW, he worked at the Human Sciences Research Council and the Electoral institute of Southern Africa as a Chief Research Manager and Research Manager respectively. He has also worked at the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Centre for Policy Studies as Policy Analyst. Dr. Kabemba’s main areas of research interest include: Political economy of Sub Saharan Africa with focus on Southern and Central Africa looking specifically on issues of democratization and governance, natural resources governance, election politics, citizen participation, conflicts, media, political parties, civil society and social policies. He has consulted for international organizations such Oxfam, UNHCR, The Norwegian People’s Aid, Electoral Commissions and the African Union. He has undertaken various evaluations related to the work of Electoral Commissions and civil society groups interventions in the electoral process in many African countries. He is regularly approached by both local and international media for comments on political and social issues on the continent. His publication record spans from books (as editor), book chapters, journal articles, monographs, research reports, and newspaper articles.


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