Mine land, water should be used for agriculture – Exxaro CEO

14th September 2016 By: Martin Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

Mine land, water should be used for agriculture – Exxaro CEO

Exxaro CEO Mxolisi Mgojo
Photo by: Duane Daws

JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The vast tracts of land and abundant water supply held by mining companies around their mines should be used for community development through agriculture.

“We sit on land, vast land. We sit on water resources, where because of new legislative requirements, we have to make sure that we put in water treatment so as to avoid water decanting issues,” Exxaro CEO Mxolisi Mgojo told a media meet on Wednesday.

As a result, the company is now considering involving near-mine communities in agricultural activity on the land around its coal mines as part of its mandatory social and labour plans.

“I think they should be agricultural hubs. The land just sits there,” he said.

Many communities, once the beneficiaries of mines that have closed, have high levels of unemployment as well as food, water and energy insecurity.

Mining companies are annually contributing financially to mine closure certificates and contemplated now are steps to turn mine resources into assets that address societal needs of particularly food and water security.

“A mine is part of an ecosystem that is there not only to serve itself but also to serve society. Every other day you get communities toyi-toyiing at your mine gate, demanding things that you can’t give them.

“Is your business secure going into the future? Because that instability will continue as people become more impoverished and yet mining companies are sitting with land and water," Mgojo told journalists.

He envisages social and labour plans and enterprise development becoming far more meaningful.

He believes the mining industry should be proactive in designing mandatory social and labour plans and enterprise development plans around achieving energy, food and water security.

“We can socially engineer this as mining houses,” he told the media meet in which Creamer Media's Mining Weekly Online participated.

Already R1.5-billion has been raised by corporates for small and medium-sized enterprise development aimed at generating jobs and building new economies.

Mgojo would like the communities around Exxaro’s mines to be able to thank the company for having assisted them to create something sustainable that outlives the mining operations.

Exxaro is also looking intently at how it can utilise some of the latest technology in agriculture.

“I have no problem with crèches and bakeries but they are not going to have a big multiplier effect in generating jobs and contributing to the economy. You can only have so many bakeries in any one square block of a township or a village.

“But that village needs to eat and drink and can be a net producer of things that can stimulate other enterprise development and create jobs. I really think the land around our coal mines should be developed into agricultural hubs,” he added.

Gold mining company Sibanye Gold, headed by CEO Neal Froneman, is rolling out an impressive, modern approach to people, profit and planet to ensure community development in the areas in which it operates, on the basis that when mining ceases at its western Witwatersrand operations in 30 to 40 years’ time, it will leave a vibrant agricultural economy, which is at this incipient stage already employing 640 people.

Mining Weekly Online was earlier this year part of a media and analyst contingent that witnessed the cultivation of vegetables by the community, who are already benefiting from the on-sale of verdant greens to the Spar retail group.

The late visionary research commentator, Dr RE (Robbie) Robinson, a chemical engineer with distinguished involvement in minerals beneficiation spanning more than 60 years who died last year, had a passion for linking mining to agriculture.

Robinson’s zero-cost mine water plan for the now stricken Grootvlei gold mine would have given gainful agricultural employment to 7 000 squatter camp dwellers on Gauteng’s East Rand had it not been rejected in the mid-1990s by the Department of Water Affairs. The costly alternative chosen by the department turned out to be a dismal failure.

Robinson promoted the concept of mining operations being allied with the provision of agricultural income for the families of mineworkers, through the growing of drip-irrigated crops such as grain sorghum, maize and even New Zealand ryegrass, which produces more milk per hectare from the cattle that graze on it than any other crop known.