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ESG pressures increase

12th May 2023

     

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There is increasing pressure on listed and multinational companies to properly understand their environmental and social impact, to commit to sustainable operational and business practices, and to develop innovative environmental, social and governance (ESG) models and initiatives, says platinum group metals miner Impala Platinum (Implats) sustainable development executive Dr Tsakani Mthombeni.

As a listed company, Implats is aligned with global reporting requirements and frameworks such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, CDP disclosures and standards of the International Organisation for Standardisation.

These frameworks, he says, require rigorous monitoring and analysis. “By using data to understand our impact and the impact of resource scarcity and climate change, we better understand our vulnerabilities and risks, and we implement pragmatic, results-driven models within appropriate time frames.”

As a result, Mthombeni says Implats is able to make an “extraordinary” contribution to socio-economic development in rural areas, including development related to ensuring efficient water re-use and adequate water supply.

“Our operations have addressed supply constraints in vulnerable host communities through major infrastructure projects and we continue to focus on alleviating water shortages.

“We work with municipalities and schools to improve water conservation and climate change awareness, assist with strategic regional planning and local service provision, and [we] work with local stakeholders to address immediate needs and ensure that bulk infrastructure is maintained and long-term planning is in place,” he says.

At the same time, Mthombeni points out that Implats “works tirelessly” to improve its internal water use, with a goal to achieve 70% water recycling and re-use by 2030. In this regard, Implats has improved its performance from 41%, to 53% over the past five years, earning an A-rating from the CDP Water Disclosure Project.

“We believe that the private sector can and must lead the way in demonstrating the art of the possible in terms of sustainable water use.

“The private sector and parastatals can offer resources, principally expertise and funding, that governments are otherwise unable to obtain, and governments can help apply these resources at scale,” he says.

Alongside other commercial water users, Implats is part of two strategic public-private partnerships (PPPs) – the Olifants Management Model (OMM) and the Rustenburg Water Services Trust. These partnerships indicate the “exciting potential” to support the development of effective, long-term water infrastructure, he enthuses.

Rustenburg Water Services Trust

Rustenburg municipality is a water-stressed area in South Africa faced with the dual challenge of increased water demand from domestic and industrial sources and deteriorating wastewater treatment capacity.

Mthombeni says public finances could not meet investment needs, which led to an engagement with local mining companies, including Implats.

The municipality and mining companies established the Rustenburg Water Services Trust to finance and operate new water infrastructure.

This strategic partnership, Mthombeni highlights, has realised several benefits including secured supplies for mining, increased freshwater availability and improvements in downstream water quality through better wastewater treatment.

“The partnership inspired a World Bank case study, which concluded that the ‘Rustenburg case proves that relatively small and financially weak municipalities can raise significant funding through well-structured projects with strong revenue streams from private sources’ and that ‘. . . there is high potential for replication in areas where industry has a stake in improving outcomes’,” he says.

Further, Mthombeni states that efforts to adequately address the water needs of the middle Olifants river catchment area in the Limpopo province have been inadequate since they were initially conceptualised in the late 1990s.

“This has resulted in chronic water scarcity in the region and an associated increase in social unrest. Water infrastructure has been vandalised, and mining operations disrupted,” he states.

To address these pressing social and commercial challenges, Mthombeni says government and a consortium of commercial water users, including Implats’ Marula mine, agreed to collaborate by entering a joint venture arrangement to construct and manage bulk water infrastructure.

“The challenges underlying water scarcity in Southern Africa – constrained public purses, struggling infrastructure, climate-related risk, and ever-increasing need – are familiar. PPPs represent a powerful tool to tackle these challenges, and where their success has been demonstrated they should be championed, embraced and scaled,” he concludes.

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

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