Interview

B.Artagbat: “Mine closure 2020” to be held in Mongolia

2019  |  September  |  022

 

Qualified Mining Consulting has been awarded the right to organize the 14th International Conference on Mine Closure in Mongolia. We talked with B. Artagbat, Executive Manager of the organizing committee.

-Can you introduce the international conference on mine closure to our readers?

-First of all, it’s a great pleasure to officially announce that QMC LLC who provides professional services to the mining sector has been awarded, under its initiative to contribute to the development of responsible mining, the organizing rights to the 14th International Conference on Mine Closure in Mongolia to be held in 2020 and that preparations are already underway.

QMC has had considerable experience through attending the international conference since 2009 and presented at 2015, 2016 and 2018 conferences. To spread international best practices across Mongolia, we have been participating in and co-organizing conferences, forums, and practical training in the field of environmental protection, rehabilitation, and closure in the mining sector since 2010. In addition to providing our inputs and contributions to several attempts of establishing regulations on mining closure activities, we developed the first-ever Mine closure plan for a mining company in Mongolia.

At this year’s conference, a very interesting case was discussed where they’re planning to tie this very issue, which takes a lot of effort and resources even after closure, to a cash generating mechanism and transform it into an economically viable project

Mine Closure 2019 was successfully organized on 3-5 last September in Australia’s Perth where Mongolia’s representative team attended to carry out networking and promotion activities as well as presenting conference attendants about the main organizational elements of the Mine Closure 2020 Conference.

Under the conception of the University of Reading (Professor Mark Tibbett) and the Geo-mechanics Center of the University of Western Australia (Professor Andy Fourie), the conference was first held back in 2006 in Perth, Australia. Since then, it has been organized with over 300-600 participants annually across major mining countries such as Australia, Canada, South Africa, Chile and Germany, discussing a wide range of important environmental, socio-economic and management related topics including mine closure planning, financing, rehabilitation, post-closure monitoring, mine closure stakeholder issues, overlooked mine issues, mine closure legislation and legal issues, ecosystems issues and climate change-related to mine closure, human rights and gender etc.   

-What are the benefits of organizing this conference in Mongolia?

-We believe that organizing Mine Closure 2020 in Mongolia will bring numerous benefits to the country’s mining sector development. Among the top mining priority countries, Mongolia hasn’t yet comprehensively updated its mine closure regulations and organizing the event in Mongolia will become a great push factor to incentivize this major undertaking. 

On the other hand, global leading specialists in mine closure will visit Mongolia, allowing raising awareness to the public as well as decision-makers on responsible mining through their speeches. Furthermore, the event will have major significance in terms of taking the knowledge, capacity, and network of Mongolian miners, professionals and business owners to the next level.

Mongolian mining companies will have a chance to have their mine closure activities discussed and introduce and promote them internationally during the conference. Thus, there’s an expectation that a positive picture of Mongolia’s mining sector and investment environment will be presented to the international community, raising Mongolia’s profile.

-What are some key features on the organizing side?

-The global mining industry is paying attention to the fact that this conference is being held for the first time in our region. There are several benefits to the high-level discussion of mine closure, an important segment of responsible mining, in this region. We can feel it from the attitudes and interests directed here. This is especially important for mining companies, consultants, researchers and investors who are working or looking to work in Mongolia and the Eurasian region in general.

We believe that a new market is being opened for exporting know-how and experience regarding mine closure and consultant firms and experts are expressing strong interest to organize seminars on topics that are crucial for us. 

Besides, they are attracted to the cases, experiences, lessons, and challenges that would come from close and neighboring countries including China, Korea, Russia, and Kazakhstan. Similarly, we have a lot of experiences and information to bring to the discussion table ranging from Erdenet factory with its mine based settlement, Nalaikh mine which was forgotten on Ulaanbaatar’s backyard, to Oyu Tolgoi, the new mine managed by one of the leading international companies among a nomadic civilization.

The “International Standard on Mine Closure and Reclamation Planning” being developed by the International Standardization Organization (ISO) is expected to be finalized by the end of this year. Therefore, we are planning to invite representatives from the standard developers to present at the conference. Hopefully, it will be a cherry on top and garner attention from our attendants.

Rehabilitation of Boroo gold mining

-When should a closure plan be developed? What are the practices in countries with highly developed mining industry?

-There’s a common understanding that before starting any job, we should think through every detail from start to finish. The international practice recommends that closure plans be developed starting from simple to complex. This means the mine closure conceptual plan should be at least developed at the initial stage. Of course, the document should be further enriched to include research results, results that came during the mining process and developments and conditions of that particular period. During the conference in Perth this year, many companies demonstrated how they employed the same principle in their activities.

-There’s a tendency in Mongolia where mines are neglected after being closed down. How is this regulated in other countries?

-Some countries create a special fund for resolving the issue of mines that have been neglected for many years. I don’t think there will be such issues with current and future mines as they’re becoming more advanced with the legal and financial arrangements in place.

For Mongolia, people are reaching an understanding at all levels on the importance of clarifying the mine closure regulations and introducing the aforementioned international practices.

-It seems that closure is becoming a pressing issue for a long time operating mines such as Erdenet, Baganuur and Shariin Gol with stockpiles and tailings dam that have been accumulated for many years. Similar to the case of Erdenet’s white dust, what should be done with tailing dams with no clear future after their closure?

-The stockpiles and dust of coal mines such as Shariin Gol and Baganuur can be resolved technically through rehabilitation and closure. We only have to focus on whether a comprehensive closure management system is in place concerning the planning and budgeting of these activities.

Regarding mines that produce and process metal ores such as iron, gold, and copper, it takes high-level professional skills and management to ensure the safety of facilities that store concentrator tailings and prevent environmental impacts and hazards. At this year’s conference, a very interesting case was discussed where they’re planning to tie this very issue, which takes a lot of effort and resources even after closure, to a cash-generating mechanism and transform it into an economically viable project.

In a mine in the south-African nation of Zambia, a highly resilient tree that produces around three tons of oil and bio-mass has been successfully planted in the mine area for biological rehabilitation. The oil produced from the tree is used for generating bio-diesel, a value-added product, which is then introduced to the market. The biomass is used as raw material for other industries. This process helps local industrial development, creates jobs and allocates appropriate tax and payments from the income generated by the mine to the local community. In turn, it supports the cost of mine closure and rehabilitation activities.

-Internationally, who regulates the handling and management of tailings dams of closed mines?

-As we understood, in countries with strong mine closure regulations, the miners take responsibility for the management and supervision of their tailings dam for many years even after their closure, without handing them back over to the state. This is because companies consider any issues or collapse of tailings facilities that have been neglected without proper handling and management would negatively impact business reputation.

-The only successful mine closure example we have for gold deposits is Boroo Gold Deposit. It also has a tailings dam that contains toxic elements. Will this pose a problem in the long run?

-Boroo Gold has been carrying out its mining and closure activities according to international standards. We hope we will hear from Boroo Gold’s international consultants, company experts, and leaders about the mine and their experiences on managing tailings dam risks at next year’s conference.

-Are there opportunities to make small mine closures more effective and high-quality?

-There are many cases in our country where several licenses are issued to one large deposit. Although this is economical at first, the costs start growing further, making it challenging to close the mine in the long run. Therefore, these companies should negotiate and cooperate to carry out proper mine closure and ensure local socio-economic stability. This ensures comprehensive mine closure. 

Small companies cannot plan mine closure or see it in a broader picture. However, consulting companies can guide uniting these companies for negotiations and on what social and economic benefits they would leave behind in the future. For this, the consulting companies themselves need to have the better capacity, first.

 



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