At Hudbay, we have a responsibility to the environment in which we operate. Reclamation is an important part of that charge. Whether a mine remains active for a few years or over decades, closure marks the final stage for all mines. Our practice is to carry out an orderly, safe and environmentally sound program of restoring the environment surrounding an operating mine site to its pre-mining condition.
Over the course of our history, we have closed many mine sites, some in environmentally sensitive areas. In the process, we have developed core competencies in mine closure and remediation.
We have an ongoing rehabilitation program at Flin Flon, aimed at restoring the environment in and around the complex and enhancing the visual surroundings. Activities include the removal of old structures and equipment, the reconfiguring and re-vegetating of tailings sites and the greening of spaces between the community and
Standards, regulations and expectations change over time. In recognition of this, we are voluntarily revisiting some of the mine sites that were worked and closed in the past. Some of these locations belonged to Hudbay while others were inherited as legacy properties. Our reclamation specialists first render the sites safe by properly securing mine entrances and removing any abandoned structures. Next we apply leading-edge techniques that rehabilitate (where necessary) the surrounding areas and either restore them as green spaces or prepare them for redevelopment into other uses.
Designing for Closure
Our efforts to remediate older mines have led us to develop a protocol whereby we take into consideration eventual closure as part of our mine development process. By focusing on closure from the start, we minimize our impact on the environment both during and after operations as well as the cost of closure. The following are principles applied at our new mine sites:
- Mine site and access: Site footprint is as small as possible. Access roads, power and pipeline routes are curved to prevent direct sightlines from public roads to the mine. During site preparation, overburden is cleared and saved for eventual decommissioning.
- Buildings: Buildings are designed with dismantling in mind. Concrete should have structurally acceptable break points and cast-in-place plastic tubing that can later be packed with explosives to break it up for removal.
- Waste rock: Determine in advance the acid-generating potential of waste rock, and then develop shafts or declines to avoid troublesome rock or make plans to segregate acid-generating materials and properly manage them from the start.
- Water management: Contour and slope the site to direct surface drainage from ore and mine rock piles into the underground collection sump system, resulting in a single waste stream and pumping system.
- Early start: At least a portion of the decommissioning work is done while the mine is operating. The availability of manpower and equipment, as compared to the high cost of mobilizing operations after shutdown, makes it desirable to do all that is possible while the mine is still running.