The mining industry plays a vital role in South Africa’s growth and development. But if mining is not strategically planned and carefully implemented, it has significant negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, in particular our catchment, rivers and wetlands that support water-related services. The Mining and Biodiversity Guideline: Mainstreaming biodiversity into the mining sector interprets the best available biodiversity knowledge and science in terms of the implications and risks for mining in a practical and user-friendly guideline for integrating relevant biodiversity information into decision making. The development of this guideline was initiated by the Chamber of Mines and the South African Mining and Biodiversity Forum (SAMBF), in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Mineral Resources, and with technical input and coordination by the South African National Biodiversity Institute’s (SANBI) Grasslands Programme.
Mining continues to be one of the most significant sectors of our economy, providing jobs, growing our GDP and building relations with international trading partners.
On par with this mineral wealth are exceptional endowments of biodiversity and ecosystems. South Africa is globally renowned as a megadiverse country that harbours an exceptional number of species in relation to most other countries. This rich biodiversity and ecological infrastructure underpin and support our social and economic development in numerous direct and indirect ways. It is currently impacted upon by mining and other land uses in ways that are not sustainable. Sustaining the goods and services that flow from our ecosystems, and the benefits that these provide over the long term, will require limits in mining and other activities in certain areas. South Africa’s Constitution and the laws stemming from it recognise the vital role of both ecological and mineral resources in a development path built upon the socially just, environmentally sustainable and economically efficient use of these resources. How then, can we develop both our mineral and ecological resources to grow our economy, create more jobs and improve human well-being – now and into the future? Taking stock of what we have and where, allows us to be proactive and make informed decisions about future land-use planning at various scales for South Africa’s optimal growth path.
The Mining and Biodiversity Guideline has had a long history. The need for a good practice Guideline that focuses on providing practical guidance to the mining sector on how to address biodiversity issues in the South African context was identified by the South African Mining and Biodiversity Forum (SAMBF), a forum facilitated by the Chamber of Mines with participation by mining companies, government departments and conservation organisations. This forum provided the catalyst and initial funding for the Guideline’s initial development. Since then many organisations, programmes and individuals have contributed significantly towards its development. The finalization of the Mining and Biodiversity Guideline has been a major focus of the SANBI Grasslands Programme. The guidelines were approved by MINMEC on 4 October 2012, and hence are now officially approved by both the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Mineral Affairs.
This Guideline provides a tool to facilitate the sustainable development of South Africa’s mineral resources in a way that enables regulators, industry and practitioners to minimise the impact of mining on the country’s biodiversity and ecosystem services. It provides the mining sector with a practical, user-friendly manual for integrating biodiversity considerations into the planning processes and managing biodiversity during the operational phases of a mine, from exploration through to closure.
From a business perspective, the Guideline explains the value for mining companies of adopting a risk-based approach to managing biodiversity. The early identification and assessment of mining impacts on biodiversity provides an opportunity to put in place environmental management plans and actions that reduce risks to biodiversity, people and business.
The Guideline provides explicit direction in terms of where mining-related impacts are legally prohibited, where biodiversity priority areas may present high risks for mining projects, and where biodiversity may limit the potential for mining.
The Guideline is of value in the Magaliesberg Biosphere as it indicates the Magaliesberg Protected Environment, and the Cradle of Humankind as areas where mining is legally prohibited.
The buffer zones (specifically the conservancies) reflect significant tracts of “high risk” for mining, meaning biodiversity priority areas are present.