There are tens of thousands of poorly-closed and abandoned mines worldwide, many of which produce on-going negative impacts on their surrounding environment and communities. In many cases there is no clearly responsible party so progress in regeneration is slow; often the legal situation works against action and there are few or no financial mechanisms available to undertake the work. The reputation of the mining industry has been shaped more by its historically poor environmental and social performance than by today’s improved operating practices. Closure planning has become an integral part of operations for the leading companies, but there remains many poor performers. Consequently legacy and closure issues are one of the main obstacles to constructive debate on delivering a more responsible mining sector.
In recent years there have been a number of major policy developments aimed at improving the envirionmental and social performance in the sector. These range from industry initiatives such as the establishment of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC); government actions such as the revisions to EU mine waste legislation; revision of environmental and social standards of the World Bank Group; and the launch of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development; to NGO initiatives such as the Framework for Responsible Mining and the Association for Responsible Mining. All of these initiatives call for more attention to the questions of who can, and how to, address post-mining regeneration.
The Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) project suggested the development of multi-stakeholder approaches to deal with closure and legacy issues. Beginning in 2002, the concept for the Post-Mining Alliance was developed, initially through the Eden Project-Rio Tinto partnership, then becoming expanded to include a broader group of organizations.