IGF Case Study: Mine Waste Management
Case Studies from Ghana and Canada
Mining typically involves moving and processing large amounts of materials to extract the target commodity. This excess material is known as mine waste. For many operations, the scale of this waste can be significant; in addition, some mine waste can have mineralization that may be reactive or that could be released from the rock when it is mined, crushed, exposed, and dispersed into the air and water, to the detriment of the receiving environment. As such, mining companies often spend significant amounts of time and resources on managing these wastes effectively, including through waste rock piles, tailings management facilities, spent heap leach facilities, and overburden. Given the potentially significant or even catastrophic environmental and social impacts that poorly managed mine waste can have on operations, communities, and ecosystems, governments play a central role in ensuring that these by-products of the mining sector are effectively and safely managed.
The governments of Ghana, Africa, and the Province of British Columbia (BC), Canada, both show leadership in this area. Mining is an important industry in both economies, and the two jurisdictions show that countries can adopt best practices for mine waste governance irrespective of the size of their economy or their history of large-scale mining. Jurisdictions with long histories of mining—like BC—can provide lessons on how to avoid the pitfalls associated with the long-term legacies of poorly managed mine waste. Ghana, a country with a relatively shorter history of large-scale mining, also has lessons on managing waste materials to share. The case studies review how legal frameworks pertaining to mine waste management are working, show how they align with leading international practice, and explore how the governments of both Ghana and BC are identifying and responding to mine waste management risks.
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