Mpumalanga province, South Africa – The Pilot, launched in April this year, provides an example of how different industry stakeholders can work together to achieve common ESG outcomes. It aims to show how remediated mine land and water can provide economic opportunities for households and the broader community once a mine is closed.
The Pilot is trialling a variety of winter wheat at two sites including a rehabilitated mine site at the Umsimbithi owned Wonderfontein mine and on nearby community land. Successful implementation will mean improved food diversity and security, added farm-based employment, and over time the possible introduction of new skills behind crop processing.
The Pilot is being executed by Melbourne-headquartered Business for Development in partnership with Glencore, Umsimbithi, ICMM Impact Catalyst and the MWCB.
The Pilot runs from April 2021 to January 2022. The program is set to scale and support more than 14,300 smallholder farming families, which supports 57,000 people residing in the Mpumalanga province, a region providing more than 80 per cent of South Africa’s coal resources.
A key strength of the Pilot is the combination of each partner’s skills and insights – MWCB’s knowledge of the regions water and land constraints; ICMM’s mine closure knowledge; Business for Developments on-the-ground experience in developing successful agriculture programs linked to market; Glencore’s commitment to sustainably transitioning their mine sites; and Impact Catalyst’s knowledge of South Africa’s regulations and government requirements – enabling the team to develop a realistic strategy to transition the region both environmentally and economically.
On completion in December, key operational learnings will be shared with the South African Government on how Mpumalanga can transition from mining (which accounts for 29.8 per cent of provincial GDP) – through the creation of new jobs, skills, investments and a more equal, resilient local economy.
Following this, Business for Development will look at developing the required systems, including expanded distribution and markets for the wheat, to replicate the program on other sites.
Thato Gama, General Manager at Wonderfontein mine: “Mine closure has evolved from an ecocentric viewpoint to a holistic approach which integrates environmental, social and economic factors. We are excited to collaborate with our partners on this pilot project, which aims to successfully repurpose rehabilitated mine land for the benefit of our local communities. This project will offer us invaluable insights in terms of alternative post-closure land uses and the opportunity to create viable economic and employment opportunities once upscaled. This can sustain the livelihoods and wellbeing of our communities well beyond mine closure.”
Dawn Brock, ICMM, Manager – Closure Lead: “Mine closure inevitably brings about changes, that have often manifested themselves as significant residual environmental and social impacts. This Pilot project is a great example of how through careful planning and collaboration of key stakeholders, mine closure can also bring new opportunities for leaving behind a positive social and environmental legacy.”
Karen James, CEO, Business for Development: “A just transition – one that ensures environmental rehabilitation, along with the creation of new industries affording decent work and social inclusion – is now the clear expectation of governments, funders and other key stakeholders.”
“Mines land and water remediation is not a “tick the box” exercise and requires a great deal of oversight. Our partners on the Pilot realise this and rely on Business for Development’s on-the-ground presence, along with our operational expertise to ensure the expectations around sustainable economic, social and environmental outcomes are met.”
Charl Harding, Impact Catalyst Manager: “The pilot Winter Wheat Project in Mpumalanga is an example of the value of collaboration to ensure strengthened household and community livelihoods, improved food diversity and security in support of a just transition”
Chiedza Sibanda, Business for Development’s Agronomy and Field Operations Manager: “Through using different sites and skillsets, the Pilot sets to demonstrate what will be needed when the program is implemented and eventually scales up.”
“Strengthening community relations and demonstrating the practicality of planned remediation practices ahead of eventual mine closure is of clear value to Glenore and possibly all mining organisations, especially members of ICMM. The very common uncertainty they face in acquitting sites, makes demonstrations such as this pilot very valuable, offering lower costs and stable relationships with communities, regulators and governments.”
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