The changing reality of life after mining

From rugged mountains to rolling hills adorned with native Saguaro cacti, the landscapes found in the southwestern United States are immediately recognizable. 

It's here that BHP manages a portfolio of former mine sites at different stages of remediation in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Utah. Together they represent hundreds of years of history in the region. 

For General Manager Legacy Assets Kate Sommerville, who leads teams on the ground in each state and at BHP's corporate office in Tucson, reconciling the famous images the region conjures with closed mine sites is a priority. 

"Across the US and in the southwest specifically, there's a spectrum of views on mining," Kate said. "A lot of people here have had mining involvement or exposure or, often times, they've seen what happens when things aren't managed properly." 

“In our industry, one size fits all approaches aren’t effective,” Kate continued. “It’s critical that both mining companies and stakeholders are aligned on what the lifecycle looks like for every site – from early exploration all the way through to finalized remediation.” 

Mine life planning at BHP looks decades and, in many cases, centuries into the future. Planning the closure of our assets is just as important as developing and operating them and every step of the lifecycle is carefully integrated to minimize disruption and disturbance.  

Our legacy assets portfolio, which includes eight US sites and 13 locations across Canada, is unique in this regard. Each were acquired largely through corporate mergers and acquisitions close to or after their closure. 

These sites mainly produced copper, zinc, uranium, tin, and gold, and a majority ceased production decades ago. BHP takes responsibility for rehabilitating and restoring each location for future land use, with safety and social value at the forefront of our decision-making processes.  

“We’re focused on leaving a positive legacy in the communities where we operate and it’s so important we make the decisions that matter in consultation with our government, environment and industry stakeholders as well as Indigenous Peoples,” Kate concluded.