Whilst it is important to regularly undertake mine maintenance when the site is still in operation (as this will ensure smooth operations and minimise downtime due to broken down machinery), when extensive maintenance needs to be completed the mine needs to be shut down. This is mainly to ensure the safety of the workers involved, as one wrong move could send the roof tumbling down, but it is also to help protect the investment of the company who owns or is using the site in question.
Causes for Extensive Maintenance
There are a number of reasons why more extensive mine maintenance may need to be undertaken rather than the basic tasks that can be completed whilst the site is still open and operating. Some of these reasons include:
- The mine may be considered to be temporarily unviable as a result of current economical conditions or unfavourable resource prices. It is expected that these situations will improve in the future.
- The ore grades in some mines are known to begin declining over time, which can lead to a need of extensive care before the site is deemed safe for workers to re-enter.
- The companies who control interest in the mine may have decided not to further their funding for subsidiary operations. It is expected that the site will reopen with a new interested party.
Because each of these causes leaves the possibility of reopening the location wide open, it is important that the mine receives extensive maintenance to either rectify the issue encountered or to ensure that it will be ready for operation when the external issues clear up. If maintenance is not undertaken, it is likely that the site will quickly fall into disrepair and will cost far too much money to bring back to its former glory. This could be a turn off to prospective investors or even government who would seek to reopen it.
What Occurs During Closure
Once the site has been shut down, a mine maintenance and care program will be established to manage all of the hazards that are likely to become present. Some of the issues that are likely to be tackled include:
- The environmental risks associated with tailings dumps, hazardous materials and open and underground pits.
- The care of idle plants and machinery that have been left within the site; these may be removed at a later date.
The health and safety of the surrounding public, including an emergency response plan in case something goes wrong.
Whilst it may seem awfully inconvenient for the site to be completely closed for extensive mine maintenance, it is important to realise that this is being done for a reason. The safety of the workers at the location, the safety of the surrounding public and environmental hazards are often the top concerns of these tasks, and it is often easier to just shut the mine down so that maintenance can be undertaken without interruption. In what feels like no time at all, the location will be reopened and be back in operation.
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