Winter Wheat Pilot


Author: Meg Kauthen, Sustainability Designer

This year Business for Development executed a pilot at Wonderfontein Colliery in Mpumalanga, South Africa, to test the performance of remediated mine land and mine affected water for agriculture using both modern and smallholder farming techniques as part of ESG commitments. This pilot was done in partnership with Glencore Coal South Africa, the International Council for Mining and Minerals, Impact Catalyst and the Mine Water Co-ordinating Body.

Research and discussion have long been underway regarding the rehabilitation of South Africa’s coal mines into other potential economic opportunities. As the country strives to reduce its reliance on coal for local energy and export revenue, work is required to achieve a Just Transition where there is “an economywide process that produces the plans, policies and investments that lead to a future where all jobs are green and decent, emissions are at net zero, poverty is eradicated, and communities are thriving and resilient” (International Trade Union Confederation, 2017).

This is especially true in Mpumalanga. Here 80 percent of South Africa’s coal is located, and there is significant dependence on mining as the primary economic driver, either directly as a source of employment or indirectly through local development and services provided. Historically, mine rehabilitation has primarily focused on the environmental aspects to ensure minimal residual environmental and health impacts post closure. If a Just Transition is to be achieved, rehabilitation efforts need to broaden to mitigate against negative impacts on people, local infrastructure, local services and the community as a whole.

The full report can be found on Business for Development’s website. Here are the top three outtakes from the pilot:

  1. Pilot quantitative outcomes demonstrated crops using remediated mine land and mine-affected water achieved higher yields
    and with appropriate practices is a potential viable option for mine closure.
  2. The remediated mine land and mine affected water had the desired zinc properties for fortified foods. Further trials are required
    to test variable inputs (seed genetics and fertilisers) to achieve optimum zinc levels in crops.
  3. Precision agriculture is essential to success on marginal soils, or where water qualities are poor. Precision agriculture may be a barrier to smallholder farmers.

If we are truly going to be sustainable we need to challenge conventional wisdom, test assumptions, bridge sectors, partner and embrace change to take measured risks. Agile and focused pilots like this one, with partners including mining companies, government, key
businesses and communities, can support the development of a positive legacy and generate a Just Transition for today’s and future generations.

Click here for the full report.

Design by HEARD Agency