A high level overview: Draft National Mine Closure Strategy 2021 & Financial provision regulations

Posted on 16 Sep 2021

Introduction

 

  • The draft National Mine Closure strategy 2021 was recently published for comment, comments had to be submitted to the DMRE by 23rd July 2021.
  • The draft strategy highlighted the adverse impacts of mining, more so the irreversible environmental degradation and economic hardship when a mine closes.
  • The importance of the Environmental Management Plans (EMPr), and how these should be aligned to post-mining impact management was also highlighted.
  • The draft strategy recognised the holistic problems post mining and presented situational challenges of how one mine closure might impact on another operational mine in the same area.

 

Nationalized, Regionalized and Integrated closure planning

 

  • The draft strategy comprehensively documented the integrated nature of post-mining impacts at environmental and socioeconomic levels.
  • The draft strategy seeks ways to establish sustainable closure of mines, linked to what we at the ENVASS group interpret as achievable Post-Mining Land Uses (PMLU’s).

The strategy seeks concurrent economic diversification, looking beyond the non-renewable resource and seeking long-term solutions.

  • The draft strategy introduced a regionalized mine closure approach, focal geographical areas where clusters of mines could work together.
  • The draft strategy positions the RMCS’s (regional mine closure committees) with specific closure standards for mines in a specific cluster or region.
  • The National Mine Closure Strategy (NMCS), will also guide the requirements for; closure application process, inclusions to the EMPr’s as well as financial provisions.
  • Of standout importance in these objectives would be the concepts of; “demarcated areas”, “mine working together”, “ self-sustaining ecosystems”, “no negative impact on adjacent mines”, “ strategic water management”, “post closure water management strategy for an area”, “post closure provisions”, “post closure stewardship” and “integration environmental and social management plans”.

 

Other mine closure legislation

 

  • The promulgated financial provision regulations, due for implementation in June 2022 is sighted.
  • The ENVASS group can support the mining industry with the compilation of  Annual and Final closure plans as well as Closure risk assessments
  • The strategy recognized the guidelines for mine closure contained in the MPRDA, the EIA Regulations and guidelines in the NWA.
  • The ENVASS group recognizes the ability to align with international closure standards represented by amongst other the ICMM and IFC.
  • The ENVASS group expects that the Regional Mine Closure Strategies (RMCS) might influence and affect the risk based closure frameworks in future.

 

 

Possible effects of the strategy

 

  • EMPr’s and associated documents might need to undergo further integration with closure strategies.
  • Closure plans might need to consider further external aspects and impacts, not to plan unilaterally and in isolation.
  • A possible regional mine closure fund, which might be unchartered in many ways.
  • The development of mine closure policies and specifics around how a mine under care and maintenance should be subjected to the draft closure strategy and its intention is also tabled

 

Conclusions  

 

  • A series of reference tables and figures provided in which regionality and categorisation of mines or clusters of mines are used to set strategic closure KPI’s.
  • Intended to create common focus points in specific regions amongst mines,  central to the draft strategy’s aim

Environmental and socio-economic realms remain central to a sustainable outcome seeking long term relationship between mining, its cessation and farming lands (food production).

  • The strategy imposed a series of challenges, and could when considering the various notions of alignment, clustering and regional integration bring about a rather intensive administrative burden.
  • However, there might be opportunity to be explored and that the principles embedded in the PMLU approach could improve and benefit the post-mining phases of mines.

 

Highlighted aspects of Financial Provision Regulations (27 August 2021) out for comment

 

  • The compliance date is proposed for as 19 June 2022, or 3 months after financial year end if after the date
  • More pertinent inclusion of templates and spreadsheet as part of the EIA process evident in the proposed regulation
  • Section 102 applications to also be subjected to the financial provision requirements
  • The definition of an independent specialist is emphasized throughout
  • Master rates and market related rates (VAT exclusive) are emphasized
  • The use of a template approach, spreadsheets and the inclusion of VAT at final rates stands out
  • The purpose of the  proposed regulations  seems to have been extended to cover environmental damages, regulating of funding, focus on progressive rehabilitation planning
  • Duty of ministers to use the funds and to facilitate sustainable mining is also shown.
  • The regulations emphasize zero deference to salvage values or other assets
  • The regulation points at the CEO as the responsible person to implement the closure plans
  • The focus seems to remain on progressive rehabilitation, decommissioning and closure activities and the management of latent impacts including extraneous water treatment
  • The basis of an itemized approach remains clear, as such that closure activities are required to be documented and costed
  • Shown that a holder shall review closure plans and adequacy of provisions annually and then, externally audit the spreadsheets (worksheets) every three years
  • Minimum content of the annual and final rehabilitation, decommissioning and mine closure plans are prescribed as Appendixes
  • Minimum content of the closure risk report also provided as an Appendix, also allows for an unscheduled closure risk assessment
  • Appendixes 4 and 5 deal with calculation methodologies for new and existing operations respectively

 

 

The ENVASS Group participates in the development of the draft strategy and hope to contribute through our own internal research as well as the experience gained on closure projects locally and internationally.

 

Environmental Assurance (Pty) Ltd. (“ENVASS”) has a wealth of mine closure knowledge and would be happy to assist with any queries or works that may be required of your company. Please feel free to contact us on 012 460 9768 or email info@envass.co.za