Hard rock mine closure (often referred to as decommissioning), mined land reclamation and financial assurance requirements are receiving considerable attention by governments and organizations around the world. In the United States, federal agencies and the states continue to consider and make changes to laws governing mine closure and mined land reclamation, most of which were originally enacted in the mid-1970’s through the mid-1990’s. Internationally, a number of prominent groups and various countries currently are considering new laws, regulations and policies for mined land reclamation. For example, the European Union has conducted a review of existing European laws concerning mining wastes and mine water and is considering new directives concerning mine waste and mine water management and liability schemes that are likely to significantly impact mine closure and mined land reclamation.
Many countries, particularly those outside of North America, Europe, and Australia, have recently adopted or are considering new mine closure and reclamation legislation and regulations. These include significant hard-rock mining countries such as Chile, Peru and South Africa.
This paper identifies recent developments in hard-rock mine closure and mined land reclamation laws in the United States, focusing on several of the more significant and controversial developments. It also discusses some of the more significant international efforts to consider mine closure and mined land reclamation laws and policies and some of the notable conclusions and trends from those efforts.
The focal issues discussed in this paper include requirements for the reclamation of open pit mines, including backfilling; consideration of and measures to address the mining of sulfide ores and potential for acid mine drainage; and new requirements for the estimation of closure and reclamation costs and for financial assurance for closure and reclamation.
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2005 SME Annual Meeting February 28– March 2, Salt Lake City, Utah