The mining industry plays a vital role in South Africa’s growth and development. There are a range of ways to take proactive ACTION towards incorporating biodiversity objectives into the planning and practices of mining throughout the life cycle of a mining project. The purpose of taking mainstreaming action is to mitigate the negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services by following the mitigation hierarchy – avoid important biodiversity completely, minimise impacts through careful design and operation, rehabilitate where feasible and/or offset significant residual mining impacts. Due to this, the coal mining sector has since realised the need to proactively and systematically address the business risk posed by its impact on wetlands. The sector then approached the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to assist in finding innovative solutions that would be acceptable for the industry and its regulatory authorities. The result was the initiation in 2012 of a cooperative research project funded by the Coaltech Research Association, Water Research Commission and Department of Environmental Affairs (Working for Wetlands).
The focus of this study was the Mpumalanga Highveld region, which finds itself at the centre of a water-biodiversity-energy nexus. This area contains one of the highest concentrations of Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas in the country. It is also the source of several of the country’s major rivers, which collectively contribute 28% of South Africa’s available water yield. Beneath the surface, the Mpumalanga Highveld straddles coalfields that are estimated to collectively contain 51% of national recoverable coal reserves.
The three year programme of work undertaken by SANBI, CSIR and other collaborators culminated in the publication by the Water Research Commission of the following products:
- A review of what is currently known about pans in South Africa
- A case study on the impact of rehabilitation measures on wetlands impacted by acid mine drainage
- An introductory guide to wetland rehabilitation in mining landscapes
- High risk wetlands atlas for Mpumalanga
- Wetland offset guidelines
- Business case for integrating biodiversity into mining
There is also a Technical Brief containing more information about the project and its products.
There are several other available tools that help users identify biodiversity priority areas where mining may be prohibited or present a risk to mining projects and that help users follow good practice in implementing the mitigation hierarchy. Click on each tool below to find out more.
Should you be experiencing difficulties in downloading any of the above publications or any other information, please contact Kennedy Nemutamvuni at k.nemutamvuni[at]sanbi.org.za.