Most environmentalists don’t want to get into mining because it damages the environment, Jeffares & Green say it is where they can best make a difference.

While most environmentalists don’t want to get into the mining industry because it damages the environment, Magnus van Rooyen, Jeffares & Green’s environmental manager, believes that it is in mining where he can best make a difference, writes Vicky Sidler.“The game has changed with regards to rehabilitation,” he says. “I see the damaging results of mining for the environment, but this only motivates me further to provide a service that delivers preventative measures on the greatest scale.”

With this motivation, van Rooyen has been putting his strong scientific background in geology, botany and zoology to work at the South African structural engineering firm Jeffares & Green (J&G). Over the last 90 years, J&G has focused on “providing the highest quality of consulting engineering services for the benefit of the community and the environment,” introducing its earths and sciences division 15 years ago. “The way to conserve nature is to give it a value,” says van Rooyen.

J&G’s environmental division has humble beginnings in burrow pits and sand and quarry applications. From there, the company has developed strong relationships in the coal industry, having added environmental impact assessment (EIA) and all related studies for coal producers in Northern Natal to its repertoire. J&G specialises in geology and geotechnical engineering, hydrology, geohydrology, ecology and biodiversity, project management and other specialist areas, such as wetland to river health, contaminate land and waste.

J&G doesn’t compete with major consultants but prefers to cater to mid tiers and junior mining companies, particularly those focused on Africa, who have different approaches to work and find innovative solutions to operational and financial problems. “Our company ethos is to help meet the needs of these clients,” says van Rooyen, adding that environmental authorisations are a key focus for J&G, with a strong emphasis on geotechnical engineering.

Juniors face greater challenges, particularly with regard to environmental requirement costs, adds van Rooyen. “There is so much contradictory information from the DMR, NEMA and DWAF that it is difficult to meet the requirements. Our job is to help juniors overcome these challenges as best we can.”

There are many notable projects where J&G has applied this philosophy:

  • Nacala dam rehabilitation in Northern Mozambique, increasing the footprint, raising the dam wall and doing small due diligence studies
  • Iron ore mines in Sierra Leone and Guinea, focusing on resettling and road design
  • New magnetite mine in Namibia, doing an EIA and resettlement, and
  • Local coal projects in Mpuamalanga and Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal, focusing on due diligences, water use licences, EIAs.

Throughout these projects, community development is critical for J&G. “You have care about the people you are affecting and employ them and relocate them responsibly,” explains van Rooyen. He adds that “working in Africa is rewarding,” and points out that mining companies play a pivotal role in developing communities. J&G is “small enough and flexible enough to make things happen.”