Mine Closer evolving into a sustainable industry

Mine Closer evolving into a sustainable industry


So many years ago, the simple objective of land reclamation was to plant fast growing trees (including foreign species) to establish tree cover, upon which natural vegetation could then grow between and eventually re-establish itself. This policy soon began to vary, as local communities often sought replanting with selective timber (often teak) that could bring post mining value to the communities. Trends change with wider awareness, wherein the Forestry now seeks a mixture of fast-growing local trees, native trees and biodiversity etc.

The concepts associated with reclamation continue to evolve, particularly as urbanization tends to follow mining. The new mining regulation now allows for non-forestry activity to be undertaken in mine reclamation programs – being consistent with sustainable development and the well being of the people. This trend towards growing diversity in optimal use of mine reclamation land may be expected to further evolve. This article looks briefly into this aspect of non-traditional mine land reclamation.


Many mining areas are overlapped with zoned forestry areas, wherein The Ministry of Forestry and Environment impose a number of regulations concerning mine operations and rehabilitation. For example, Forestry P60/2009 provides guidelines for assessing the success of forest reclamation. The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources has a number of regulations on mine closure, including Reclamation and Mine Closure (GR 78/2010) and others. Note that Government Regulation GR 07/2014 includes mine closure to be considered within the approval for an economic study, technical study, environmental impact assessment (AMDAL), valid permits and stakeholder engagement and acceptance. The ESDM Government Regulation 1827, dated 7 March 2018, on good mining practices includes guidelines for reclamation, post-mining and post-operational implementation of mineral and coal business activities as listed in Annex VI. This appendix considers land use before and after exploration activities, along with impact of exploration activities on the project. The exploration stage reclamation program is signed off by the ESDM Director General before the exploration phase can start. The next phase of feasibility study also includes further environmental planning and guarantees for mine closure.

This article is follows the trend of GR 1827 Appendix VI, section D.1.4 that states “Reclamation Program of Production Operation stage can be implemented in the form of revegetation and / or other designations consisting of: a) residential area; b) tourism; c) water sources; or d) cultivation area”. This represents a significant shift if policy, and opens further opportunities for post mining sustainable development.

A number of examples of mine closure that have empathy with GR 1827 follow;

Nature Sanctuary – Kelian Gold Mine.

Kelian Equatorial Mining (PT KEM) is a mining company registered under Indonesian law which is 90% owned by Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto and PT Harita Jayaraya Inc (10%) – an Indonesian company. KEM signed a Contract of Work with the Indonesian government in 1985 for a 286,233.5-hectare concession. The area is home to a number of Dyak tribes who also used to hunt for bushmeat. The Kelian gold mine of East Kalimantan was discovered in 1976 and after 12 years of exploration became a designated project. The first gold was poured in 1992 and when the mine closed in 2004 a total of 179 t Au and 145 t Ag had been produced, a more than a twofold increase on the amount estimated during the feasibility study. Mine closure was managed between the local communities, and in compliance with the World Bank Business Partners for Development Program that brought together the private sector, government and civil society.

Until recently the Sumatran rhino was thought to be extinct in Kalimantan, but in 2013, hidden cameras operated by the World Wide Fund (WWF) confirmed that 15 Sumatran rhinos were living in two small pockets of habitat. To create a home for Kalimantan’s endangered rhinos, Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment & Forestry is creating a 200-hectare rhino sanctuary on a rehabilitated mine site managed by PT Kelian Equatorial Mining (KEM), a Rio Tinto subsidiary. It is hoped that the sanctuary, situated within the 4,561-hectare Kelian Protected Forest, will be officially designated a wildlife reserve and provide a safe haven for Kalimantan’s small and struggling Sumatran rhino population.

Tourism – Ombilin Coal Mine.

Sawahlunto was founded by the Dutch in 1882 as a coal mining town in West Sumatra. Coal was needed as fuel for coal fired steam ships that changed the nature of trade, and brought military power with gun ships that could sail independent of the wind. The Dutch built a 155km rail road through the mountains with great engineering skill, to bring the coal to the shore, and goods inland. President Soeharto’s national development plan included a new Ombilin coal fired power station at Sawahlunto to bring power for the development of Padang and surrounding West Sumatra. Some 30 million tons of coal has been mined by open cut and underground mining, with the latter phase under PT. Tambang Batubara Ombilin, that later became a subsidiary of PT. Bukit Asam. Around 1998 the underground reserve of Ombilin III was put out to tender, Japan (JCOAL) researched the area with PT. BA, but there were no bidders, wherein the coal mining industry closed, and the power station scaled down. This led to the town shrinking. Mayor Amran Nur then promoted Sawahlunto as a mining tourist destination (2004) and established several museums, and kept the coal train as an operating tourist feature.  Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto is UNESCO listed (2019) for cultural recognition. The West Sumatra Provincial Regulation No. 3 of 2014 includes a regional tourism development master plan 2014-2025 for this area.

Tourism – Pongkor Geopark.

Pongkor is an underground gold and silver epithermal vein mine located in Java and operated by the State Owned Enterprise PT. Antam UBPE. The reserves are near depleted, and the gold mining license shall expire in 2021. Post mining restoration and reclamation is to be undertaken. In order to sustain local resident’s welfare post mining, PT. Antam UBPE Pongkor is to established an underground mining tourism museum.

Tourism – Arosbaya Limestone Hill.

In Madura (East Java) the active limestone quarry of Arosbaya Limestone is cut by chain saws and small power saws, leaving a distinctive sculptured appearance. The lower section is filled with clear blue fresh water. This facility is a local tourist spot, and sometimes used as a background for fashion photography. The limestone blocks are a popular construction stone / brick, as well as some bulk mining to support the local cement industry.

Tourism – general.

Operating mines are also be tourist destinations, for students, geo-professionals or the hardy traveller. The unbelievably large mining equipment in canyon sized man-made holes are awe inspiring, while the secure gold concentrating rooms give a tingle of intrigue.  Freeport in far off Papua, or Bukit Asam in nearby South Sumatra are sought after geo tourist sites, complete with well-prepared viewing points and tours. In a further extreme, the BreX story of Busang was even made into a movie. Perhaps tourists may go from looking at orangutans on jungle river cruises and also to nearby traditional Dyak villages, to the Busang exploration site.

Cultural Reclamation – Matapura.

One enjoyable tourist destination in South Africa is to visit a huge diamond mine. For me it was the geology, but for my wife it was the diamond shop at the end of the tour. Many years earlier I had visited Matapura in South Kalimantan, a well promoted local tourist destination based upon the local alluvial diamond mining. Matapura became the centre for the Indonesian diamond and gem trading, with other local semiprecious stones coming from all over Kalimantan, and elsewhere, to be traded. Some of these gem markets diversified further into trading local weaving and ethic products, that encouraged the development of ethnic dance classes and so promote cultural tourism. We see a similar pattern emerging in other formal mines, wherein Community Social Responsibility may include the “cultural reclamation” of remote communities.

Moving beyond Mining – PT. Timah.

Tin mining started around 3,000 BC with the combining of tin and copper to make bronze. Around 1710 tin was discovered in Banka, and by the 18th century Banka was an important tin production centre with annual outputs of around 1,250 ton. Much of the tin mining today is undertaken by the SOE of PT. Timah on Banka & Belitung. Furthermore, the Local Government Regulation No.6 of 2001 about general mining also allows local people to exploit the tin as long as they are compliant with the regulations. Recently the governor of Bangka-Belitung, said that 40 percent of the islands’ workforce was currently involved in tin mining and dependence had to be cut, but at a manageable pace. The local government realizes that the people have to be prepared to face the post-tin era, and so try to encourage people to work instead in industries such as tourism, maritime and agriculture.

The Provincial government is working with various parties that may also bring forward some mine closure through modifications to the spatial planning. The post mining projects include; –

  1. Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund (ICCTF) in collaboration with Yayasan Terangi, and funded by USAID, intervened the issue by implementing “Belitung Mangrove Park Project”, to transform ex-mining area into a Mangrove Tourism Park for Ecosystem Rehabilitation and Carbon Sequestration.
  2. The tourism industry was strengthened by Regional Regulation No. 7 of 2016 concerning the Master Plan for Tourism Development in the Province of Banka Islands in 2016-2025.
  3. The Belitung geopark is managed according to Tourism Ministerial Regulation No. 14/2016 on sustainable concepts. Several areas in Indonesia had been designated as geopark and one of them is at Bangka Belitung Province by Indonesian Geopark Authority in 2017.
  4. The provincial government of Bangka Belitung (Babel) Islands has made a proposal (2019) to UNESCO for Taman Bebatuan Belitung (Belitung Rock Park) to be declared as a world geopark.
  5. The central government’s decision to name Tanjung Kelayang as one of 10 national priority beyond-Bali tourism destinations set the provincial administration thinking seriously about the prospects for the industry Tanjung Gunung will be developed for water sports, resort hotels, a water park and culinary centre, while Tanjung Ular will host a port.
  6. Bangka Belitung is the nation’s biggest producer of white pepper, producing around 30,000 tons of the crop per year, contributing about 40% of national production.

Real Estate – Bukit Asam.

The Dutch commenced coal mining at the Air Laya Mine in the Tanjung Enim area of South Sumatra in 1919. In 1981 PN TABA changes its status to a limited Liability Company under the name of PT. Tambang Batubara Bukit Asam (Persero) Tbk. The coal mine continues to grow, and in 2019 targets 27.26 million tons of coal production. The Company looks upon post-mining as an integrated part of mining plan. PT. BA states that post-mining land that has been reclaimed and vegetated could be utilized for various purposes, in addition to plantations. On post-mining land adjacent to the Tanjung Enim open pits, the Company constructed 50 ha of Urban Forest that includes a water park and recreation forest, and an educational forest. A portion of post-mining land at the Air Laya Mine is to be used as a fishpond area to support food security. It is also known that PT. BA is researching the option to use some tailings dump sites for real estate. This may fit with PT. BA’s entrance to the real estate and construction sector through the establishment of PT Bukit Multi Property. Other research into solar farms etc, may open further opportunities for a sustainable community.

Water pump power storage – Australia & Germany.

The Australian town of Kidston in outback Queensland was a gold mining town from 1907 to 2001 that was abandoned once the last mine closed. An ASX listed company plans to use two 300m deep craters of the abandoned mine to be used for pumped hydroelectric energy storage system, combined with an integrated solar farm. When demand is low, electricity is sourced from the solar farm or grid, to pump water to the higher reservoir. When the energy needs to be recovered, the water is released into the lower pit (about 200m) through a tunnel or pipe, where it drives a turbine, which converts the energy of flowing water into electricity. The Kidston project is the first large, off-river PHES project in Australia.

Germany’s underground coal mine Prosper-Haniel was due to be shut down in 2018. Research is ongoing to use this 600m deep underground coal mine for water pump-storage for electricity generation. Supportive power may be provided through wind turbines, solar and biomass energy at surface. One added benefit of converting disused mines is that it doesn’t interfere with the natural landscape or require the rerouting of rivers, which is often the case for other types of hydroelectric power plant.

Solar power – America and others.

The broader open cut mines typically associated with coal or laterites (bauxite, nickel, iron) often leave broad areas of pit floors or on tailings heaps. Long term reclamation can be expensive and of limited public benefit. Several companies in the USA, and other places are looking at installing solar farms in mined out areas. This has the opportunity to make use of past mining infrastructure, including offices, roads, local security, power lines etc.


Exploration & mining initially spearhead development & responsible government into remote areas. Now reclamation under GR 1827 is acting as a spearhead for sustainable project development into remote areas. Ongoing evolution of forestry, mining, spatial planning and local government may be coordinated to take advantage of the changing nature of mine closure programs, and community needs.

It would seem some further flexibility for the mine closure aspects (in 20 years’ time) may need to be built into the options for early exploration & feasibility stage of a mining permits, to encourage flexibility for the ongoing evolution of the mine rehabilitation industry.

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