Biodiversity and Mine Closure

Biodiversity and Mine Closure

Why are biodiversity and mine closure important?

Mining activities require the development of infrastructure, which alters the natural features of the local landscape. Open pit mines, processing mills, mine waste rock facilities, and roads can damage habitat, impact individual species, and affect overall ecosystem health. Mines have finite lifespans and mining companies are responsible for managing their impacts not only during mine operations, but also after mine closure. This means restoring land to a natural state and ensuring no health and safety risks remain from mining waste, equipment and infrastructure. At Pan American Silver, our desire to leave a positive legacy in our host communities means that we engage local communities and governments in planning mine closure well before a mine is in operation.

Material TopicBiodiversity and mine closure
Sub-TopicBiodiversity management
Mine closure
DefinitionMine closure planning to minimize negative impacts on the environment, including biodiversity
Feedback From COIsCommunities and governments have voiced economic, environmental, and social expectations beyond the lifespan of our mines.
How We’re RespondingWe are implementing best practice mine closure techniques in the closure of Alamo Dorado which is now nearing completion and working to maximize positive biodiversity outcomes in post-closure.

We completed a Corporate Environmental Standard on Biodiversity and Mine Closure and commenced implementation at our mines.

Our Approach

From an environmental perspective, our objective is to return the land disturbed by our activities to as close to its natural state as possible. We work to make the transition from operations to closure as efficient as possible by starting the planning process early and collaborating with local communities. Our approach includes: 

Programs and Initiatives

  • Ecosystem baseline studies – We conduct detailed flora, fauna and ecosystem baseline studies to identify potentially sensitive habitats and species prior to commencement of mining or significant changes to our operations.
  • Reclamation plans – Each site’s reclamation plan includes measures to enhance biodiversity conservation. 
  • Biodiversity management plans – Each site has a plan to manage biodiversity during construction, operation, and closure.
  • TSM Biodiversity Conservation Management Protocol – Our mines self-assessed performance against the protocol and are developing action plans for improvement.
  • Biodiversity and Mine Closure Corporate Environmental Standard – We commenced site-level implementation of the standard in 2018.
  • Closure plans – Each mine has a closure plan, and we update detailed closure costs estimates for all mines and projects on an annual basis.
  • Engagement – We engage with local communities and other COIs to ensure that their closure and post-closure expectations are considered.

Monitoring

  • Biodiversity monitoring – We monitor biodiversity at all our sites to identify potential new impacts and compare results with our baseline studies.
  • Post-closure Monitoring and Maintenance – All our closure plans include many years of post-closure monitoring to ensure reclamation objectives are achieved.

Our performance

Minimizing Impacts on Biodiversity 

None of our mines are located in areas that are designated as having high biodiversity value. Our Huaron mine in Peru, however, is adjacent to the Huayllay national sanctuary(1). Baseline studies and monitoring have not identified any significant impacts on biodiversity from our operations. In fact, for some of our sites, ongoing monitoring shows an increase in biodiversity as well as in flora and fauna population densities. This occurs where we have purchased large areas of land, but only require a small portion for our operations. The remaining unused land is protected, and the absence of grazing activities and hunting has led to improved habitat creation. For example, in Argentina we own more than 57,000 hectares of land that is located outside our operations and protected from impacts such as sheep grazing and hunting. Flora and fauna surveys on this land in 2018 have shown an increase in abundance and diversity of species in the ecosystem. At our Dolores mine we are in the process of restoring 40 hectares of community land that was previously affected by cattle grazing and natural erosion in order to provide habitat for native fauna.  

(1) Huaron’s operations are approximately 300 ha in size and located southwest of the Huayllay sanctuary (6,815 ha) which is a “rock forest” formed by volcanic activities.

Reclamation

We conduct progressive closure, reclaiming disturbed land and waste rock facilities once they are no longer required by our operations. At the end of the mining lifecycle, we work to create landforms that integrate back into the natural landscape and provide quality habitat. This requires removing physical infrastructure and reclaiming remaining waste rock and tailings storage facilities. By the end of 2018, the accumulated area disturbed by our operations was 1,771 hectares. We reclaimed 89 hectares, primarily at Alamo Dorado.

Mine Closure

In 2016, we began implementing the largest mine closure program in our Company history, as the Alamo Dorado mine reached the end of open pit mining. Our closure plan was developed in collaboration with local communities and landholders and was the first ever to be formally approved by Mexican authorities under newly established procedures. Active closure is now complete and we are focused on revegetation of the waste rock facilities as well as ongoing maintenance. 

In order to optimize our company-wide mine closure process, in 2018 we completed a detailed analysis of the actual costs of the Alamo Dorado plant demolition, erosion control, waste rock facility and tailings regrading, technical studies, and ongoing monitoring. The results of this work enable us to determine the underlying causes of costs that were underestimated. We then applied the lessons learned to the closure costs estimates at our other operations.

Next steps

  • Continue to implement post-closure at Alamo Dorado and apply relevant lessons learned to our other operations.
  • Continue site-level implementation of the TSM Biodiversity Conservation Management Protocol and our Corporate Environmental Standard on Biodiversity and Mine Closure.

Click here to see additional biodiversity performance data:  

MM1 Amount of land disturbed or rehabilitated

Potential risks and impacts

  • Damage to ecosystem health and loss of biodiversity
  • New or unanticipated closure, reclamation and remediation costs and regulatory requirements

Related SDGs