Relinquishment of Closed Mine Sites: Policy steps for governments

This report reviews the concept of mine site relinquishment, scans global practices, and discusses challenges, key considerations, and policy steps.

By Rob Stevens on September 18, 2023

Mine closure policies and practices have advanced over recent decades, and most governments now recognize that closure is essential to the future of communities and the environment affected by former mine sites. However, current practices fall short of achieving final closure, as mine sites are left in the hands of mine operators indefinitely, without a pathway to relinquish the site to the next landowner and to realize post-mining land uses, or as sites are relinquished without plans or funds to monitor and manage the site after closure and ensure those post-mining land uses are achieved.

Relinquishment, which is the legal transfer of responsibility for a closed mine site from the operator to the next landowner after all closure activities have been completed, is an important but generally absent consideration in modern mine closure policies or processes. There are limited global examples of successfully relinquished mines and few well-developed government policies on relinquishment, despite both industry and governments recognizing its importance to the current and future sustainable management of mineral resources.

This report reviews the concept of relinquishment and provides a high-level scan of global practices and policy. This is followed by a discussion of some of the challenges and key issues that governments should consider when developing relinquishment protocols. It concludes with a series of recommended steps to relinquishment.