What does the mining reclamation process look like?

1 Answer
Apr 7, 2016


Highly variable and depends on the type of mine and the specific regulations a company must adhere to for a specific mine.


Mining reclamation is highly variable in nature and depends on what kind of requirement is set out by the government before the mine starts operations. Prior to about 1970s, there were no mining reclamation laws in most places in North America as there were no environmental regulations at all! Somewhat of a free-for-all. Consequently, there are probably hundreds of un-reclamied "legacy" sites around North America - basically, nature is slowly reclaiming these sites.

In many developing countries, there still may not be much in the way of reclamation laws in place, or if they are, countries often don't have resources to enforce regulations and/or bribing officials to "look the other way" is all too common.

Post 1970, most mines in North America and the developed world do have reclamation obligations. Probably the best is some coal strip mines in the plains region that do reclamation as a continuous cycle - clearing overburden, mining coal and then reclamation. See pic. http://www.worldcoal.org/coal/coal-mining image source here

Open-Pit mines are often not required to fill the gigantic holes back in but in some cases they are turned into lakes with some shore-line reclamation. This saves the companies huge amounts of money. See pic 2. http://www.bnn.ca/News/2012/11/12/Goldcorp-facing-resistance-to-Timmins-mine-plan.aspx image source here

Underground mines are usually allowed to not fill the mine back in, and its usually allowed to fill up with water. The companies must disassemble the "head frame" (the host used during mining) and reclaim the surface around the head frame, but usually not too much more. Some times, companies are allowed to dump all the head frame material down the mine shaft. Companies are almost always required to blow up the surface of the underground mine for safety considerations.

In some unfortunate cases, mining companies will declare bankruptcy and tell government they have no money to do reclamation. This "deliberate bankruptcy" is often arranged years in advance of closing the mine as a way of getting out of reclamation responsibilities.