JSE-listed Harmony Gold Mining has improved its environmental management through the implementation of a system that centralises the company’s environmental data.
The system, the Management Toolbox (MTB), facilitates the capturing of environmental data, the storing of related source documentation and automatic validation of all data.
Harmony partnered with Pretoria-based engineering company ETA Operations, formerly known as HVAC International, to implement the MTB system over the past 23 months. The MTB was locally developed by engineering company and ETA sister company TEMM International.
The most significant advantage of the MTB is that it improves access to environmental data, which allows for more effective environmental management, such as the monitoring of water consumption and carbon dioxide emissions targets, according to Harmony sustainable development executive Melanie Naidoo-Vermaak.
“The era of environmental data ‘islands’ hidden in spreadsheets on computers located at different locations is long gone – instead, all environmental data is now available on a central electronic repository that is accessible through the Internet,” she explains.
Senior ETA environmental management consultant Dr Hendrik Brand stresses the importance of accurate reporting on environmental data to ensure correct decision-making.
He explains that the use of the MTB expedites the validation of environmental data through a functionality that allows for the storage of source documentation in electronic format. This ensures that the necessary source documentation is readily available when external audits are conducted. ETA also developed an Android-based mobile application, which Harmony personnel have used since July 2017 to capture and upload source documentation to the MTB.
Continuous, automatic verification is also done on the environmental data, through the automated comparison of populated data with source documents. This verification functionality reduces the need for lengthy/full scope internal audits.The
MTB also makes the external auditing process easier and more efficient, as external auditors can log into the MTB system from the convenience of their offices. This eliminates the need for travelling to remote mining sites to retrieve source documentation for auditing purposes.
“By implementing the MTB system, environmental data analysis is more effective and external audits are conducted more efficiently,” according to Harmony environmental manager Keitumetse Padima.
“The MTB system has the potential to make a significant positive impact on mining and other industries in terms of environmental management, [as] it results in environmental figures that are more accurate and easily auditable, which ultimately improves credibility,” says Brand.
He, however, believes that the biggest value of the MTB is the fact that it enables better environmental management.
Further, as adherence to the King IV corporate governance code is mandatory for companies listed on the JSE, companies now report yearly not only on their financial performance but also on their performance in terms of their impact on society and the natural environment, Brand emphasises.
He further stresses that environmental performance reporting also forms part of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). King IV and the GRI reporting commitments imply that there are many companies that have a need for environmental management and reporting, and Brand says companies that wish to improve their environmental management and reporting will benefit from the MTB.
The service provided for Harmony by ETA in terms of environmental management is, however, unique in the sense that it consists of more than the MTB system alone.
“ETA provides multidisciplinary engineers that assist Harmony in using the MTB system. These engineers are actively involved in aspects such as populating the data on the MTB system, auditing source documentation and monitoring progress against environmental performance targets,” he says.
ETA operations chairperson and founder Professor Eddie Mathews emphasises that environmental data management is just one of the diverse uses of MTB, with other functionalities including the management of operational improvement initiatives, such as condition monitoring of large industrial infrastructure and managing energy consumption.