Thursday July 24 2014

Formulate mine closure guidelines

By Samuel Okulony

As we appreciate the ongoing debates on the exploration and production of more than 3.5 billion barrels of oil in the Albertine Graben which is expected to last for about 30 years, it is critical that Uganda ensures that the mining and processing companies formulate and implement the mine closure plan during their operations.

It should be noted that a mine begins to close the day it opens , closure planning often brings in measures to restore ecosystems after the mine has closed which include strategies to create livelihood opportunities for local people and avoids it being a curse for generations as well documented in most African countries.

Often, closure plan preparation involves the detailed drawings of disturbed landscape, compilation of baseline information, discussions with regulators and stakeholders on end land use considerations, crafting of supporting research programmes, and preparation of budgets and schedules.

For a mine nearing closure, the closure plan takes the form of a decommissioning plan, and includes details and selection of mitigating technologies.

The most important benefit of closure planning is identification of critical activities to achieve successful reclamation which usually identifies areas of needed research. It also identifies planning constraints (and sometimes opportunities) especially identifying safe methods and locations for tailings storage.

These plans provide some assurance that the mine is not “painting itself into a corner” and provide a starting basis to estimate financial assurance levels important to both mines and regulators.

It also forms a base case against which future planning changes can be compared to as we know oil can be very toxic to the environment and measuring cumulative impacts of oil is a challenge facing all oil producing countries.

Much of this work falls under the concept of “design for closure” introduced 30 years ago in Peru and successful todate. It is crucial that we appreciate the facts. Without closure plans the oil industry will be more disastrous after it has closed than when it is operating due to toxicity of its substances on the environment

If we look at the environment as a community that we belong to, we might not care for it not until we start looking at it as a community that belongs to us then we shall appreciate and care for it as our own
National Environment Management Authority is the principle agency in Uganda mandated by law to foresee environmental activities and should see to it that mine closure guideline are formed and given to the developers as we appreciate sustainable development and avoid the oil curse in Uganda.

Samuel Okulony,