REPURPOSING COAL MINES
The world is switching to clean energy with great urgency. Like the railways, telegraph, faxes and many other technologies, the coal industry will be relegated to a significantly reduced roles in our society.
Forward thinking Governments and Institutions are preparing for what will be the greatest transition of National economies this century. Indeed some significant initiatives have already been taken, as of November 2018 the World Bank released a forward thinking document on Managing Coal Mine Closure – Achieving a Just Transition for All. The Queensland government released the Mineral and Energy Resources (Financial Provisioning) Bill 2018 which is even broader reaching, looking at the closure of all legacy mines.
Despite concerns about air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, coal use in developing economies are expected to continue to be significant in the future. Therefore greater efforts are needed by government and industry to embrace less polluting and more efficient technologies to ensure that coal becomes a much cleaner source of energy in the decades to come.
As the national economies transition from coal to renewable energy mine closure must be planned for and managed at many levels. The National Economy will require a great deal of clever thinking by politicians, bureaucrats and industry to identify opportunities in a changing global market, and to ensure that people remain employed and communities are well protected.
On the practical level, which is were we operate, coal mines must be closed in a sustainable way. This means that mine closure needs to consider remediation and rehabilitation that allows for repurposing of the site to provide new employment opportunities. This means we have to look at more than just leaving a park or a grazing property, it means engaging the local communities to identify opportunities that create meaningful and sustainable employment. Each site will be different and the histories of arriving to the point of mine closure are important factors.
The cost is traditionally borne by the mining industry and/or the government environment bond, but this generally means just ticking the box and recover the environmental bond. BUT this is not good enough, the local community, government and the consumers must also contribute to take advantage of this opportunity.
Some countries, like Australia export most of their coal, while it would be nice it is not practical to expect consumers in the importing countries to contribute. Therefore the national and state governments must reinvest some of the proceeds from their export revenue into mine closure and repurposing.