Mpumalanga Wheat Pilot

Mpumalanga Winter Wheat Pilot


South Africa


Product: Winter Wheat
Program Phase: Pilot
Program Partners: Glencore, International Council of Mining and Metals, The Impact Catalyst, and the Mine Water Coordinating Body


Mpumalanga is at the centre of power generation in South Africa, providing more than 80% of South Africa’s coal resources. After mining and quarrying – which accounts for 29.8% of provincial GDP – manufacturing, power generation, tourism and agriculture are the province’s other major sectors.

Local communities are highly dependent on mining operations as the primary economic driver, both directly as a source of employment and indirectly through local development and services provided.

In the coming decades, many of these mines will close, and with a population of 4.67 million people, transitioning the economy to other viable industries is of critical importance.

To address this, Business for Development worked with a consortium to execute 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.


Business for Development designed the Pilot to compare the results based on varying inputs. The Pilot tested:

  • seed varieties: two types of winter wheat
  • land type: land had never been mined (unmined land), rehabilitated land and two smallholder farms
  • irrigation: mine-affected water, ground water accessed via a borehole and no irrigation where the smallholder farmers relied on rainfed conditions.

Business for Development then compared the results of each approach.


Through careful planning and strong community engagement, the Pilot proved that remediated mine land and mine-affected water could be used to diversify the economy through agriculture. There were three key 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 are a potentially viable option for mine closure.
  2. The rehabilitated 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.

Read the full report on the Pilot. Further, the Pilot provided a case study to engage the South African Government on viable post-mine economies.

Design by HEARD Agency