Delegates at a mining seminar hosted during Sustainability Week, which took place at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in Pretoria, earlier this month, heard that greater levels of governance and accountability were needed to ensure effective land rehabilitation after mine closure.
South African mining solutions and rehabilitation company Ncamiso Mining CEO Tshego Motsoenyane, who delivered a speech on postmine land rehabilitation during the seminar, pointed out that the lack of governance and accountability often resulted in no rehabilitation at all.
Another constraint for land rehabilitation identified during the seminar was the regulation of risk transfer from larger mining houses to emerging companies, as larger mining houses at times sold their operations without fully disclosing the extent of the rehabilitation responsibility.
“This was identified as one of the reasons for the inability to fully rehabilitate land post mine closure, as smaller companies realise the depth of their problem only after the mine has reached maturity,” Motsoenyane said.
She added that, while there had been failures in the past, it was important that mining stakeholders took action to limit the harmful effects of mining. “Stricter governance and accountability around . . . new mining activities is a step in the right direction, although, ultimately, it lies with the integrity of the mining houses . . . to do what is right by all individuals affected by their operations.”
Motsoenyane further highlighted the importance of using responsible and sustainable mining solutions to effectively rehabilitate land, with particular focus on the challenges for emerging mining companies when doing mine-waste reprocessing and rehabilitation.
“Post mine closure rehabilitation should, first and foremost, aim to identify the beneficiation from end land use and set out to eliminate the dangers and risks associated with derelict and ownerless mines,” she told Mining Weekly after the event.
Once end land use has been identified, Motsoenyane says, it is important for mining companies to incorporate strategic planning and take proactive steps parallel to mining activities, as this will ensure the viability of valuable end land use and mitigate the need to implement further damage-control measures. “This saves money and time in the rehabilitation process, as it limits the damage post closure and reduces the extent of the clean-up, and would mitigate some of the financial challenges that often result in no rehabilitation taking place at all.”
The most effective way of rehabilitating mine-affected land is to completely remove all mining-related material, contamination and engineering structures, which not only stabilises the land and provides a safe, healthy environment where end land use meets the needs of the community but also prevents scavenging and illegal mining activity, she explained.
“Rehabilitation needs to be an integral part of a mine’s operation and not an afterthought. “Mining responsibly with rehabilitation as the main focus, rather than exploitation of minerals, will positively affect the way in which the mining process is tackled,” Motsoenyane concluded.