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The Australian National University

The Social Aspects of Mine Closure: A Global Review with an Australian Focus

Presented by


The Jon Altman Room, COP2145, 2nd Floor Copland Building, Kingsley Place, The Australian National University


Wednesday, 22 November 2017
12.30 - 2.00pm

"The excitement and fanfare that surrounds the opening of a new mine is never present when it finally closes" (Laurence 2006: 285).

This pragmatic statement frames the challenge for industry, governments and locally-affected-peoples to move from a dominant 'front-end' approach to mining, to more actively considering the social, political, and economic impacts that occur when a mine closes. There is a pressing need to reimagine the practice of mining in order to positively re-frame the legacies that are left behind. To borrow from the title of a 2002 World Bank mining report, "it's not over when it's over". The impacts and legacies of mining are increasingly under scrutiny by a growing civil society and an active local citizenry who are not always 'excited' when a mine opens and to whom effective closure may be more important than effective operations.

The mining industry has become central to modernity; minerals and metals are required for essential technologies, infrastructure materials and a minimum standard of living for billions of people. But there has been a growing recognition by many within industry, government and civil society, that business as usual is not viable. Currently, mine closure experts typically focus on issues such as mined land rehabilitation, mine water management, vegetation management, post-closure land use, physical decommissioning and so forth. There is no equivalent in the social arena. There are, however, multiple issues to consider; including town normalisation, post-mining economies, stakeholder engagement, heritage management, and agreements with local and Indigenous communities. How companies approach the social aspects of mine closure, or 'social closure', will shape the way the industry is perceived, which will in turn affect the ability of companies to develop mines of the future.


After 10 years working with the two major NT Land Councils, Sarah joined the ANU in 2002 as a Post-Doctoral Fellow on the CAEPR ARC Linkage Project with Rio Tinto and CEDA; "Indigenous community organisations and miners: Partnering sustainable regional development?". Sarah continued at CAEPR for 6 years, including as Social Science Coordinator for the Desert Knowledge CRC. Sarah has published on a diverse range of issues in the Indigenous Australian context, including; extractive industries and sustainable development, Aboriginal community governance and service delivery in remote settlements, social exclusion, marginality and post-coloniality, gender violence, the ethical governance of intellectual property and collaborative knowledges, and challenges for human rights implementation. Sarah's most recent position at the ANU was ARC Future Fellow ending in 2016, which resulted in the book Remote Freedoms: Politics, Personhood, and Human Rights in Aboriginal Central Australia (in press, Stanford University Studies in Human Rights Series). Sarah is currently a Senior Fellow at the University of Queensland's Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) where she is returning to her earlier interests in applied development anthropology. Sarah is currently also a CAEPR Visiting Fellow.          

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