The Minerals Council’s Environment department is charged with ensuring environmental issues are addressed in a manner that enhances members’ contributions to sustainable development, and ensures that risks to the viability of the mining industry are identified and managed. The department exists to provide advisory services, influence key policy positions, provide strategic direction in the development and review of the legislative and policy framework, identify research needs and any programme on all aspects of mine general environmental management, mine closure and sustainable development in the mining sector of South Africa. The Minerals Council therefore plays an important role in representing members’ interests in this critical area at national and international level, and in engaging with government on the development and implementation of related legislation and policy.

Critical team members

  • Nikisi Lesufi: Senior Executive: Health and Environment
  • Stephinah Mudau: Head: Environment

Context

It is evident that unregulated and unmanaged exploration and mining for minerals can result in environmental impacts. Consequently, it is within the best interests of the Minerals Council to ensure that mining takes place in an environmentally sound manner in order to effectively manage these impacts. However, the mining industry competes for various resources, such as land and water, with other sectors. In South Africa, the situation is exacerbated by a legacy of more than 100 years of mining, which has led to various environmental challenges, for example acid mine drainage, uranium contamination and dust from dumps, among others. At the time, there was no applicable legislation, technology and knowledge to effectively predict and address these challenges. A typical example is the Witwatersrand Basin where few mining companies remain from the genesis of mining all those decades ago and, in fact, many of these older mine sites have been abandoned. To date South Africa has adopted a much more progressive environmental legislation and policy framework in the mining industry, which has come a long way in ensuring that mining companies mine in an environmentally sound manner. In many instances, companies have even gone beyond the legal and policy requirement in terms of adopting environmental best practice which has enabled significant reduction in the mining environmental footprint.

Consequently, the Minerals Council has been at the forefront in fostering partnerships between government, labour representatives and mining companies to constantly seek new ways to avoid, minimise or mitigate the negative impacts of mining on the environment, and address legacy issues.

KEY ACTIVITIES AND PROGRAMMES

  • Serving as the primary representative of the mining sector in environmental policy initiatives on regulatory and voluntary bodies.
  • The Minerals Council engages stakeholders both locally and internationally regarding environmental matters, legacy issues and environmental sustainability matters to ensure that the mining industry adopts the environmental best practice.
  • Leading discussions and developing position papers with mining companies and other stakeholders to assist policy formulation and implementation of mine environmental management, water-related issues, waste management, air quality and sustainable development.
  • Providing guidance and strategic leadership on mine environmental management policy issues, mine environmental management, mine closure, carbon management and sustainable development.
  • The Minerals Council provides advisory and technical support to members on policy and technical issues pertaining to environmental management in the mining industry.
  • Undertaking policy related research in environmental management and sustainable development in the mining industry.
  • Monitoring the development and review of any legislative and policy framework on all aspects of mine environmental management, mine closure and general environmental management sphere of sustainable development.
  • Working with government and industry in formulating measures and guidance to strengthen the implementation of the legislative and policy framework. This includes the Minerals Council developing a methodology for calculation of carbon tax liability for member companies in terms of the Carbon Tax Act, development of the self- assessment tool for water conservation and water demand management that will assist members to comply with the requirement of the Department of Water and Sanitation.
  • Co-ordination of training and capacity building in mine environmental management, mine closure and environmental sphere of sustainable development through facilitating courses at institutions of higher learning and any other research institution.
  • Identifying research needs and effective programmes on mine environmental management, mine closure and sustainable development.
  • Engagement with government departments – particularly the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), Department of Environmental Affairs Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) and Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) – and Minerals Council South Africa liaison forums to achieve effective engagement on strategic issues.
  • Assisting government and the industry in formulating measures to strengthen the implementation of the various legislative and policy frameworks related to mine general environmental management, mine closure and the environmental management sphere of sustainable development.
  • Representing the mining industry of South Africa at local and international meetings pertaining to environmental management obligations, especially with regard to mine environmental management, mine closure and sustainable development – including climate change meetings, the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, the International Council on Mining and Metals and others.
  • Co-ordinating the mining industry’s inputs to government programmes aimed at the management of mine environmental legacies in the development of the National Programme of Action for the Management of Acid Mine Drainage.
  • Execution of tasks assigned by Parliament, ministers and/or other authorities with regard to specific projects/programmes as well as the management of tasks within the respective strategy frameworks and responsibilities.
  • Engaging the DWS, DEFF and DMRE on issues pertaining to effective regulation of environmental matters in the mining sector.
  • Partnering and collaborating with government departments on various issues
    • such as the DWS in the implementation of the latest National Water Resource Strategy and development of water efficiency target setting project for the mining sector, and
    • the DEFF and National Treasury in the development of the Carbon Tax Policy and the implementation of the National Policy on Climate Change.
  • Developing a guideline for water conservation and demand management in the mining sector.
  • Liaison with research and technology institutions on mine environmental management initiatives on behalf of the industry for effective engagement and better co-ordination.