For mine owners and operators, achieving final bond release can feel like a difficult-to-reach milestone. Several factors need to align for reclamation success, and attaining final closure often takes many years — or even decades. Over the last 13 years, Trihydro has worked with clients to achieve final bond release for six mine permits in four states (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas).
1. Set aggressive goals
When a bond liability period lasts for a decade or more, you can easily lose site of the final release objective. Begin by setting aggressive goals that map out your preferred vision for the bond release process. This will allow you to leverage existing resources (stockpiling topsoil or rock material is a lot easier when the mining equipment is still on site), as well as demonstrate restoration progress (it’s also easier to show stakeholders your success as you complete key project objectives).
2. Identify stakeholders
As you transition from active mining to reclamation, the bond release process can be a fresh start for relationships with stakeholders and regulators. When identifying stakeholders, be as thorough as possible and reach out to agencies, organizations, and adjacent landowners—especially those who may not have been proponents of the mining project. Remember there are likely stakeholders involved who were not involved when the project started and likely do not understand or are not aware of initial agreements and reclamation requirements. This is a great opportunity to set the stage for positive relationships with these different groups.
3. Build relationships with stakeholders (and don’t ignore difficult stakeholders)
Meet with your stakeholders early and often. Keeping stakeholders involved in the reclamation process with regular interaction will allow you to identify potential conflicts before bumping up against roadblocks. Consider inviting stakeholders to the site to observe progress and share successes. Remember that building relationships and trust takes time and commitment, and that maintaining these relationships throughout the bond release process will prove beneficial.
4. Maintain open communication
Keep regulators involved throughout the process to encourage smooth progression. When questions regarding permit intent or objectives arise, reach out to the agency for clarification. Consider submitting draft permit modifications for review prior to the official submittal to streamline the approval process and minimize follow-up questions. Inviting regulators for a “boots on the ground” site visit can also provide valuable information not easily deciphered through routine reports. By maintaining clear, frequent communication, you’ll more easily keep everyone on the same page and moving toward the same goal.
5. Search for a middle ground wherever possible
During the bond release process, there will be conflicting considerations at times. Work with your stakeholders to find a middle ground that takes into consideration different perspectives and concerns. Remember that your goal is final bond release, not to win an argument to prove a point.
6. Celebrate achievements widely
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, celebrate achievements as they occur throughout the process. Recognize your staff for their part in meeting goals and give credit to stakeholders and regulators for working as a team to make progress. You can even consider presenting a paper at a national conference or preparing a press release sharing the success of your reclamation efforts.
If your goal is achieving bond release, Trihydro can help. For more information about Trihydro’s mine closure experience and capabilities, please contact us.
Steve Linse, P.E.
Senior Mining Engineer