National Mining Agency issues new regulations for Mine Closure Plan
Resolution ANM No. 68 addresses plan content, monitoring and updates
On May 4, 2021, Brazil’s National Mining Agency (ANM) published
ANM Resolution No. 68, providing new rules for the Mine Closure Plan (PFM) while also repealing Mining Regulatory Norms (NRM) No. 20.4 and 20.5. Taking effect from June 1, 2021, the ANM’s new resolution updates regulations applicable to mine closures originally provided by DNPM Ordinance No. 237/2001, which had been in place for almost 20 years.
Resolution No. 68 establishes that every mining operation must include a PFM. It further provides that a PFM shall comprise a set of procedures for decommissioning mines, which involves the demobilization of temporary support structures for mining and processing operations, as well as the physical and chemical stabilization of permanent structures and their monitoring. Plans must also address if the mining area qualifies for future mineral exploitation or any other use.
The resolution demonstrates AMN’s concern with the sustainable character of mining, as it seeks to increase clear and well-defined measures to describe and regulate the PFM and its related procedures.
According to the new resolution, PFMs must address the following elements:
For projects at the stage of application for a mining concession or whose concession has been granted but have not yet started operations:
- Documentation describing the overall situation in the mining area;
- Infrastructure for the mining project to be installed in the mining area;
- A conceptual project for decommissioning civil structures and the physical and chemical stabilization of the remaining structures;
- Actions to rehabilitate the area that have already been carried out;
- The main monitoring and maintenance actions planned for the site;
- A physical-financial schedule for the PFM, integrating measures for the pre-closing, closing, and post-closing stages.
In addition to the documents listed above, the following items must also be submitted for mines that are closing due to depletion:
- A characterization of the operation’s area;
- An assessment of risks arising from the closure and ways of mitigating any resulting damage from mining operations;
- A plan for the demobilization of facilities and equipment;
- A plan for the physical and chemical stabilization of the remaining structures;
- Measures to prevent unauthorized access to mining facilities and to restrict access to hazardous areas;
- Maintenance and monitoring actions for the structures remaining in place after closure;
- Guidelines for adapting the site for its intended future use.
In addition to all the documents listed above in the previous two items, mines closing before depletion must also:
- Report remaining mineral resources and reserves;
- Provide technical and economic justifications for the shutdown of mining activities.
Finally, for mines in operation, in addition to the information and data listed in the first two items above:
- The mining concession titleholder must give an indication of the expected life of mine.
Resolution No. 68 also provides that ANM may waive some of the elements for smaller mines with less complex, low-impact operations in exploited areas.
In creating the new PFM regulation, the ANM has stressed the need for regular updates to monitor and control modifications to the plan throughout the life of the mine. Thus, the PFM must be updated every five years or whenever updates to the Mine Development Plan (PAE) occur.
Any previous updates to the PFM must have been made at least two years before the scheduled closure date for the mine. In contrast, NRM No. 20.4 and 20.5 — repealed by the new Resolution — had established that the plan should be updated periodically, without objectively specifying deadlines.
Operations with mining titles with less than five years’ validity and/or those expected to close their mining activities in less than two years are exempt from obligations to update the PFM. However, they are obliged to demonstrate that the PFM has been carried out when the term of the title ends.
Rules for tailings dams
ANM Resolution No. 68 has also introduced a set of specific rules applicable to tailings dams. In addition to the criteria mentioned above, PFMs for projects containing dams must include a dam de-characterization plan or other technical solution, aiming to reduce the potential risks associated with each of the project’s tailings dams. If it is not possible to de-characterize a particular dam, the plan must provide for it to be monitored in accordance with applicable legislation.
Deadlines and transitional provision
Under the terms of the new regulations, mines in operation with valid mining concessions have 12 months to present updated versions of the PFM. Importantly, Resolution No. 68’s wording suggests that this 12-month period commences from the date of the resolution’s publication (May 4, 2021) rather than from the date it takes effect (June 1, 2021), a difference of several weeks. The ANM is expected to provide further clarification on this matter.
Projects with mining concessions that have submitted a request to postpone the start of mining activities or a request to suspend mining will have 24 months from the date the resolution takes effect to present their PFMs, regardless of whether such requests have been authorized or are still under analysis.
In its chapter on transitional provisions, the resolution establishes that projects with applications for mining concessions before the ANM will have 180 days to present an updated PFM, counted from the date the respective concession is granted. This measure ensures there is no need for applications already at an advanced stage of analysis before the ANM to be adjusted and reanalyzed.
News and complexities for mine closure
As conceived in Resolution No. 68, the PFM is in line with the ANM’s objectives. It is a dynamic document that seeks to incorporate sustainability standards into the mining sector, and even considers more complex situations such as operations that make use of tailings dams. In this regard, the new resolution introduces new elements to the area of mining regulation in Brazil.
Still, it is important to consider that mine closure is an important stage in the overall operation of a mine. Due to the potentially broad implications of closing a mine, the process should be conducted both in line with the PFM and other applicable regulations – particularly those of an environmental nature.
For more information on ANM Resolution No. 68, contact Mattos Filho’s
Infrastructure and Energy practice area.