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ESG central to miner’s operations

An image of Canyon Coal environmental compliance officer Arjen Nell

ARJEN NELL This increasing focus on legal and social requirements to operate sustainably and ethically bodes very well for the future impact of ESG on the mining sector

26th August 2022

By: Nadine James

Features Deputy Editor

     

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Matters of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) are central to mining as they are core to the notion of sustainability, something that the industry, and coal producer Canyon Coal, have been striving toward for years, says Canyon Coal environmental compliance officer Arjen Nell.

He notes that the ESG comprehensively deals with the vast majority of long-term, sustainability-related issues and provides a framework that works to ensure that mining companies can balance the needs of the environment and society at large, alongside companies’ need to operate profitably.

“ESG came to the forefront primarily through investors demanding increased attention on environmental, social and governance-related matters and data. Investors are looking beyond financial statements and now want to consider the ethics, competitive advantage and culture of a mining organisation.

“This increasing focus on legal and social requirements to operate sustainably and ethically bodes very well for the future impact of ESG on the mining sector.”

Nell points out that Canyon Coal is audited by an independent consultancy firm on a yearly basis on the implementation of its environmental management plans, which verifies the credibility of the performance data provided. Canyon Coal is a subsidiary of Menar, a private investment company.

Canyon Coal and Menar’s ESG Actitivies

Nell notes that Canyon Coal’s commitment to good mining practices goes beyond the operational phase, with the company placing a stronger emphasis on mine rehabilitation. One such example is the rehabilitation of the former opencast Singani Colliery, which is located in Middelburg, Mpumalanga.

Singani is the first Canyon Coal mine to reach the rehabilitation stage with the ultimate goal of receiving a mine closure certificate from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.

The project reached an important stage with the completion of earthworks in June 2021. This included the moving of a large quantum of hard, subsoil and topsoil materials as part of the remediation process.

Nell explains that mining at Singani started in September 2014, with its resource having been depleted in February 2019. At peak production, the mine produced 130 000 t/m of run of mine (RoM) coal.

Concurrent rehabilitation of the mining areas was undertaken, throughout the life-of-mine, which has aided the speed of the rehabilitation of the site.

“Canyon Coal implemented a risk-based approach to ensure concurrently implemented rehabilitation actions would achieve the desired post-mining landscape and land capability aligned with end land use goals of restoring the site to agricultural land,” says Nell.

He notes that the earthworks rehabilitation included backfilling of pit areas and voids and removal of the RoM pad, roads, workshops, offices, all infrastructure and levelling the ground, along with the eradication of invasive plants, the eradication of which is done continuously.

“Pit areas have been carefully backfilled with the overburden that was removed to access the coal and has been covered with topsoil.”

Nell emphasises that Singani Colliery has followed the prescribed, “environmentally sound” way of mining and rehabilitating the site.

He explains that a free draining topography was encouraged for the rehabilitated area to blend in with the surrounding landscape and the direction of water flow on site.

“Our end goal is to restore the land to an arable state and ensure that the whole area is functioning ecologically as it was before mining started. “Achieving this would be a major milestone for the company.”

Nell notes that Canyon Coal has carried out regular environmental audits at Singani to examine the stability of the site.

“The completion of the earthworks will allow for seeding to take place. This will start in due course.”

He adds that Menar and Canyon Coal’s ESG activity will continue to advance in line with the need to create jobs and business opportunities for host communities and adhere to the ESG values of sustainability.

Nell cites the example of the successful relocation of a bee colony from Singani Colliery.

“As pollinators, bees are integral to all aspects of the ecosystem. They support the growth of flowers, nuts, berries, and fruit trees, thereby contributing to the complex, interconnected ecosystems that allow a diverse number of different species to co-exist.”

The hive obstructed a borehole which prevented ongoing groundwater monitoring and posed a significant health and safety risk, which is why Canyon Coal appointed specialist bee removal company Better Buzz to safely relocate the bee colony to a more appropriate location.

Better Buzz owner Thinus Barnard notes that the removal and relocation of the bees were completed in one night, on May 4, 2022, with the removal process starting at sundown.

“The removal of the bees from the borehole at Singani took about three hours. The bees were put in a beehive directly after removal and transported to their new home at Muisvlakte. In any bee colony, there are on average between 30 000 to 80 000 bees,” Barnard states.

Nell

adds that the successful removal and relocation of the bee colony from Singani was done without unnecessarily killing any bees. “This is in line with Canyon Coal’s mission to protect and preserve the natural environments in which it operates,” he comments.

Meanwhile, to reduce carbon emissions at its plants, Canyon Coal has developed and implemented a pollution prevention plan in accordance with the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act and the associated National Pollution Prevention Plan Regulations that guide the reduction of carbon emissions on all operational sites.

All Canyon Coal’s operational sites are guided by relevant specialist studies to preserve local animal and plant species.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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