JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Private and public sector entities officially launched a sustainable mine closure collaborative platform, called the Mine Water Coordinating Body (MWCB), at the Nedbank-New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) Business Foundation Networking Forum, hosted in Sandton, on Tuesday.
The MWCB is a neutral platform for stakeholder engagement aimed at facilitating and coordinating mine closure initiatives that identify common challenges and propose and implement joint solutions, said Nepad Business Foundation CEO Lynette Chen.
The platform is meant to champion and implement sustainable mine closure solutions that will “minimise environmental degradation, loss of income, and social and economic stagnation” that manifest from mine closures.
The MWCB structure currently comprises representatives from the departments of Mineral Resources (DMR) and Water and Sanitation (DWS), State-owned power utility Eskom, the Mpumalanga provincial government, the Water Research Commission, the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority, as well as the Minerals Council South Africa (MCSA) and its coal producing members, Anglo Coal, South32, Exxaro Resources, Glencore, and Sasol Mining.
Chen expects more entities to join as the MWCB’s plans expand beyond the Mpumalanga region.
MCSA health and environment senior executive Nikisi Lesufi noted that the council had pitched the idea of the MWCB to its members and that it had prioritised the buy-in of the major coal producers to fund the MWCB initiatives.
He noted that the aforementioned miners have each committed R1.5-million over three years to fund some of the MWCB’s work.
Mineral Resources Deputy Minster Godfrey Oliphant noted that while the country has enough mineral reserves to mine for another 100 years, more emphasis should be placed on “hand[ling] the future better than the past.”
He noted that the DMR had already started rehabilitating some of the 6 000 ownerless and derelict mines, and would be applying more pressure on miners to implement concurrent rehabilitation.
He stressed that there is more than sufficient funding set aside for mine rehabilitation and that, “it is not a problem of money, but of skills.”
He suggested that the DMR and the government relook their tendency of “tendering everything” and try to find more suitably skilled mine rehabilitation professionals and solutions.
Oliphant also warned the MWCB against replicating research that has already been completed and compiled by local and international research organisations or mining companies, and to focus on implementing solutions rather than finding ways to “reinvent the wheel”.
Some of the issues raised in the panel discussion at the forum pointed to the difficulties in obtaining legislative approvals for mine-affected water use and mine closure. Chen noted that these issues needed to be addressed soon, as the Mpumalanga coalfields are nearing the end of their lives.
She added that, “significant technical, financial and legal input is required to make the mining sector more sustainable” and that “partnerships and collaboration between communities, government and private sector are the only way to . . . ensure a long-term sustainable solution for the region.”
MWCB programme manager Carla Hudson pointed to one of the organisation’s projects, namely the Mafube and Kromdraai Green Engine projects, undertaken by Anglo Coal and Exxaro. The projects comprise two maize pivots, the first of which was irrigated with treated mine water, while the second was contoured for agricultural purposes.
She notes that the yield for the first pivot has increased from 8 t/ha to 14 t/ha since increasing irrigation.
Water and Sanitation Deputy Minister Pamela Tshwete closed the forum noting that she does not want the Mpumalanga coalfields to become as big a liability as the Gauteng goldfields in terms of water contamination.
After lauding the private sector for taking the initiative on responsible and sustainable mine management, she stressed that the MWCB should learn from other countries and institutions to implement solutions that will stimulate small, medium-sized and microenterprises to deliver the circular green economy proposed by Chen.
Tshwete concluded that she hopes the “fruits borne through this initiative can be applied to all mining towns” and that the solutions provided by the MWCB ensure that communities remain, “vibrant and self-sustaining long after the mines have closed.”