Evaluating the effectiveness of integrating the environmental impact assessment and mine closure planning processes
Environmental Impact Assessment Review
School of Science
Integration of environmental assessment tools has long been promoted as best practice with the potential to bring environmental benefits. In this research, we set out to evaluate the effectiveness of integration of environmental impact assessment (EIA) and mine closure planning using a simple effectiveness criteria framework, applied to current regulatory provisions and practices in Western Australia. The effectiveness criteria for the integration of EIA and mine closure planning, compiled from existing reviews of integration and effectiveness concepts in the impact assessment literature, considers procedural, transactive, substantive effectiveness and overall process legitimacy. Data analysis consisted of a literature review, examination of regulatory and guidance material and interviews with 12 experienced EIA and/or mine closure practitioners with an industry or regulatory focus. The results provide strong, positive examples of procedural, transactive and substantive effectiveness due to the integrated framework. These include behavioural changes, improved knowledge and learning and better provision for closure at an early stage of mine planning. A trajectory of improvement was noted by everybody interviewed. However, a key driver for effectiveness is the enthusiasm of key facilitations, and tension exists due to the different motivations of the two lead regulatory agencies which poses a challenge for the integrated framework. While it can reasonably be argued that the effectiveness of early mine closure planning cannot yet be realised, due to a paucity of completely closed mines in Australia this study nevertheless demonstrates clear benefits and opportunities result from early stage integration of EIA with mine closure planning.