Private company Inzuvect, trading as LNR Forest Estate, has partnered with forestry expert Merensky Timber to research ecosystem restoration on mining properties.
LNR will, from the first week of March and over the next decade research and, in due course, implement solutions to ensure sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity in post-mining economies.
The company intends to engage and partner with a South African mining community to conduct research near some of its sites.
The company is responding to the global call of managing biodiversity, climate change, food security and livelihoods, in accordance with the United Nation’s Wildlife theme for 2021 – “Forestry and Livelihoods” and Sustainable Development Goals 2, 13 and 15, relating to food security, health, land degradation and climate change.
Rehabilitated mining land can serve as carbon catchment areas, with restored biodiversity and perhaps even sources of fresh water with the correct restoration practices, explains project coordinator and LNR lead researcher Lindiwe Ringane.
The project will integrate mining, conservation and biodiversity, towards creating a realistic green sustainable economy that will be meaningful to mining communities beyond 2035.
“The project seeks to restore tree and vegetation growth around mining sites situated entirely within village settings. The aim is to stabilise tailings to prevent runoff of toxic materials into streams, and reduce the volumes of water seepage through acidic and heavy metal contaminated material and, importantly, mitigate climate change."
LNR aims to improve water quality in these post-mining-economy areas, as well as soil quality for future agricultural activities. The company will address the needs of the soil and prepare for the kind of future that is necessary and more environment-friendly in the region.
Ringane tells Engineering News & Mining Weekly that LNR will look to first start its research and implementation in one area, near a mine, and find out what the community objectives are for the land post mining.
LNR has engaged with the Montana Technology University, in the US, specifically Professor Paul Conrad and Professor Scott Rosenthal, considering the research they have conducted on mining rehabilitation and preparing land for an entire ecosystem – incorporating conservation, preservation, restoration and other environmentally responsible activities.
Ringane believes climate change should not only be discussed, but says there must be activities and implementation for mitigation. “Before we can talk about advanced technology, we need to understand what happens in the real sense of nature.”
She adds that LNR will duplicate biodiversity restoration successes from their initial trial area to other sites to build more carbon capture sites and secure more clean water resources.
She believes LNR resonates with mining companies that envision sustainable land restoration beyond mining.
Ringane points out that restoring biodiversity in-itself presents opportunity for forestry activity, such as wood lots that are managed responsibly, which would also help to re-establish an economy in mining communities, or for renewable energy plants, agriculture and tourism, if original indigenous plants can be restored in the area.
She says land degradation neutrality will enable the sustainable provision of renewable energy, which will in turn contribute to the green economy of South Africa.
Essentially LNR aims for its work to become a catalyst for mining rehabilitation and ecosystem restoration, while making sense for the mining economy to engage in these activities.
“Let us integrate conservationists and engineers and start actioning solutions,” she concludes.