Mine closure planning is complex, often more so than the project design and construction. The planning horizon for mine closure is measured in decades, and involves complicated and interrelated social, economic, and environmental parameters that are likely to change over time. Mine closure has significant repercussions on local communities, as the mine has often been a major economic player providing important fiscal revenue and social services to the local community. It also raises concerns about environmental management, unemployment, and the continuing provision of basic social services, such as water, electricity, and health care. At the time of project launch, Romania’s mining sector required major subsidies, a considerable drain on government resources, and the mine closures were a significant social hardship for miners, families, and communities.
The key project challenge was to accommodate the physical mine closure in an environmentally acceptable manner and help mitigate the social impact on the workforce and the community, leaving behind an enduring positive legacy in the mining region and the affected communities
The project development objectives were to (i) strengthen the government’s ability to undertake mining sector reform and its capacity to close uneconomic mining enterprises by supporting the closure of complex mines and ancillary facilities in an environmentally sustainable manner; and (ii) provide support to mining communities and local public authorities for socioeconomic regeneration. This dual strategy, working concurrently on environmentally sound mine closure, and on scaling up local employment opportunities for former mineworkers and strengthening local capacity to improve local infrastructure and services, was an innovative approach, building on lessons and limitations of previous experience with mine closure in the country. The Bank’s approach highlighted the key principle of heightened participatory engagement with communities to ensure that former mines be returned to communities as assets rather than liabilities.