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Attractive Nuisances and Wicked Solutions

Jeff Parshley, Cathryn MacCallum
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
First presented: 
ACG Mine Closure Conference Perth, Western Australia
Published paper
Mine closure plans generally include the objective of creating sustainable conditions that provide for public health and safety and protect the environment. The mining industry has developed and implemented approaches and technologies to achieve this objective in a variety of contexts. However, some activities will inevitably result in post‐mining conditions that become attractive nuisances  —  conditions that appeal to trespassers who may not understand or appreciate the safety risks to themselves and others.
During operations, controls can be implemented and monitored to reduce the risk of exposure to attractive nuisances, but after closure this becomes more difficult. Proactive stakeholder engagement can identify likely post‐mining land uses and sustainable livelihoods. However, what happens when these are in conflict with mine closure goals? It is critical to understand the drivers for and context of future land use and livelihood development to mitigate and/or influence the potential impacts of both.
In addition, throughout the mine lifecycle (exploration through closure), the operation should support sustainable and responsible development at a community level. Yet, in some instances the social context can severely limit the options for and effectiveness of standard technical closure approaches. In extreme cases, the social context of a project may not lend itself to any solution that achieves the technical and socio‐economic objectives of closure because of uncontrollable future use of the site. These challenges, along with the consequences of economic disturbance, and population displacement, inequality, and poverty — issues often referred to as a ‘wicked problem’ — are often inadequately addressed.
Within the context of closure, this paper compares the complex and multi‐dimensional aspects of poverty with the constraints and opportunities posed by mining as a dominant single sector economy. Examples of integrated closure planning, stakeholder engagement, and land use and livelihood development are presented to illustrate successful approaches to avoiding or mitigating attractive nuisances after closure. These successes are contrasted with situations where future land use and livelihood development are less controllable, potentially limiting the effectiveness of industry standard closure practices. In doing so, the authors propose an overarching wicked solution for social closure through livelihood restoration and socially and ecologically sustainable community development practices.


Feature Author

Jeff Parshley

Jeff Parshley has more than 30 years of project experience throughout North America, Latin America, Australia, Asia, Europe and Africa, which includes mine permitting, environmental audits, feasibility and due diligence studies, mine closure design and permitting, liability assessments, reclamation and closure cost estimating, pit lake studies, mine waste studies and environmental geology. He has considerable experience in the permitting and closure of gold heap leach operations in the western U.S. and has lectured in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, Australia and Africa on mine closure planning and design. He regularly heads multi-disciplinary teams on projects ranging from environmental liability assessments to permitting to mine closure. He is currently carrying out a number of mine permitting, remediation and environmental geochemistry projects, a large underground mine expansion and several permanent mine closures.

Corporate Consultant, Mine Closure
SRK Reno
SRK Latin America