Mine Rehab and Closure - Interview Transcript with Timothy Duff
Arthur ChanHi, this is Arthur Chan from Mining IQ and for this interview I am joined by Timothy Duffwho is the Environmental Engineer at Cliffs Natural Resources, who is currently workingon the Koolyanobbing operations. So thank you for joining us Timothy and welcome.Timothy DuffYeah, thank you very much for having me Arthur.Arthur ChanGreat. So now before we begin Tim, can you please tell us a bit about yourself andyour experience?Timothy DuffYeah, no worries. I studied at Curtin University and part of the school of mines. Istudied mining environmental engineering and finished that in the end of the ’08 andthen since then I’ve been working for Cliffs at the Koolyanobbing operations.Arthur ChanGreat. So, thanks for that. So now, I guess mine closure today is less of a technicalchallenge, and more of a management one. And one part of this evolution is, I guess,the integration of mine closure practices to everyday practices. So then, what are thebest practices for this then?Timothy DuffYes Arthur, I think that’s totally true, that statement, because now there’s really a goodunderstanding of what a best practice is with regards to mine closure issues are,especially within mining company’s environmental themes. But I suppose really, themain challenge lies with getting mine planning teams to adjust their ways of thinking toensure that they integrate good practices in their everyday mining life, getting them tounderstand the benefits and importance of a good environmental practice and to startworking towards mine closure really from day one.The other big challenge is getting finance departments to realize that there’s more upstraight costs associated with mine closure today, especially with new regulations andlegislations coming involved and opposed to having the all the olden day way of thinkingreally with much of the cost of mine closure associated at the backend. Also, there’s alot more information that’s now being required by regulators prior to approving a miningproposal, mainly to ensure their operations can be properly closed and the integration ofmine planning into the project processes such as exploration to ensure the cost ofcapturing this information is really minimized.
I suppose, the best way to overcome these issues is to consult mining experts on anearly stage. I understand and agree with stakeholders what they expect and what canbe achieved from mine closure. It’s really important that the stakeholders understandthat mine closure is not really a one-size-fits-all process and then the closure criteriaand the objectives need to be specific to individual staffs and really need to ensure thata closure plan is dynamic and established well before the work expenditures of the minebefore it runs out. Otherwise, some of the golden opportunities are going to be lost.And I suppose finally, although mine closure applies to areas of the operation, much tothe focus of closure, it is now directing towards the waste rock landforms. Cliffs believethat management plan should really be developed to each new waste rock landformsand that that process should be done with mine planning themes. To ensure at least,we require that both the manager of technical services and the manager ofenvironmental services sign off on any management plan.Arthur ChanOkay. That’s really interesting. So now where are you looking towards for, I guess,case studies or successful examples of mine closure and/or rehabilitation?Timothy DuffYes Arthur. I suppose attending conferences such as this one and networking withother organizations is really the best way to achieve this. We’re also trying to developrelationships with other mining companies, whereby other members of the team ormyself can visit their company’s site and especially when mining companies recognizedimplementing best practice in the area and I suppose another place we’re looking for isreally in our own thought, we’ve got some really good examples of good regional portionand some examples of some pretty poor stuff and weve recently conducted a review ofall our waste dumps to determine what was done in order to show the good stuff andwhat was done to show the bad stuff in regards to really vegetational growth andstability, and that review has shaped the construction of the rehabilitation processes andalso really helping in a way of developing new waste rock landforms.Arthur ChanGreat. So now there’s always constant change in the legislation relating to closureplans, how are you keeping up to date on this and how do you actually ensure all yourinternal stakeholders to comply with regulations?Timothy DuffWe currently sit on the Chamber of Minerals and Energy Committee, which both theirdepartment of mines and petroleum and the environmental protection have alreadyliaised to this committee regarding any changes for legislation. I don’t personally attendthese committee meetings so I really try and pick up to stay through to attend
conferences such as this, especially when the DMP are attending and also are gettinginformation of the members of that company who attend the committee meetings. andwith regards to making sure internal stakeholders comply with any of these legislationchanges, it’s really they’re trying to integrate our best practices of environmentalmanagement team to their everyday mine practices as well as discussing that earlierquestion.Arthur ChanOkay. So now what do you think are the major obstacles to successful mine closureand rehabilitation? And I guess, how can companies overcome these?Timothy DuffThat’s a really big question, it’s really never ending. I suppose what we consider themajor obstacles are integrating mine closure practices in the everyday practices.Planning mine closure from an early stage is really hard to do when you get peoplethinking about it early on. But this is really going to be soon overcome I think, butchanges to the regulator requirements at approval stages. Developing andunderstanding between all parties regarding the fact that there will be elements ofuncertainty; I mean, models are just tool that can only give you an indication of what’spresent and the long-term problem is going to come up wherever. Sampling programsshould be established following risk assessments. For example, it’s been a long historyof acid rock drainage in the area, really when they do the more comprehensivesampling program, also, regulated expectations and the bureaucracy associated withthat, budgeting, and this will always be a major issue, and identifying the final land useis really hard to do. And currently, there are number of stakeholders that have differentopinions on what when they claim it should be and that’s in turn a challenge.We can attempt to overcome this by sitting down with mining plans at an early stage ofthe mine’s operations and integrating closure practices. For example, we’re developingour waste rock landform management plans or any new waste rock landform into oureveryday practices, developing a closure criteria with external and internal stakeholdersand ensuring that this is understood and that mine closure is really a dynamic processwith the goal post regularly changing, and finally, we can do it about developing aclosure system for the operation that identifies processes required to hopefully close outtheir operations and give an awareness that it’s been operating for decades. One theirtasks is developers have created closure management plan for various parts of thatbusiness, creating a whole road, workshops, villages, an old town sites.Arthur ChanGreat. So thank you for your time Timothy and we look forward to seeing you at theconference in June.Timothy Duff
No. Thank you very much Arthur, Im looking forward to as well. You’ve been listeningto Mining IQ with Timothy Duff, Environmental Engineer at Cliffs Natural Resources.And for more information about this event, please visit www.minerehabilitation.com.auor call us on 02-9229-1000. Or you can email us on email@example.com. And don’tforget you can also join our discussions about the mining industry via twitter@miningiq.And that’s all, until next time.