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Generally, there is a misconception that mining and the environment are mutually exclusive. You can’t be a miner and care for the environment, right? Wrong!The reality is that the two world’s couldn’t be more directly connected or interlinked, writes Laura Cornish. In the ‘good old days’, and I mean many decades back, miners focused on mining and the environment generally suffered the consequences. Today, however, the likelihood of getting a new mining operation up and running without first implementing a well-thought-out and approved environment management programme is zero!

This is really great news for our planet, as well as for our environmental lobbyists who make it their personal mission to make our mining industry’s lives ’a little less easy’. Your job has become considerably easier I say. The mines really have their environmental responsibilities in hand and the government is ensuring this remainsso. Can I just say, and this is simply my opinion, that lobbyists drive me crazy, quite literally. You can’t be anti-mining and enjoy the comforts of the modern world – electricity, a smart phone, a car, television… need I go on?

The downside for our miners, and there sadly always is a downside, is that the mines have been put under such severe pressure to mine responsibly that the situation has shifted to the opposite end of the scale. Charlaine Baartjes, MD at EcoPartners, says that 77 environmental Acts have been promulgated between 1995 and 2014. In fact, environmental legislation has doubled every 20 years since the 1940s. Today there are 120 South African environmental Acts regulating the mining industry. “This is making it almost impossible to comply with,” she states openly. “Our poor mining industry, it almost appears that they have been set up to fail.”

Nonetheless, the mining industry should be hailed for its efforts to be environmentally compliant, despite the fact that it is getting more and more difficult to do so. Reassuringly, it is comforting to know that even in the past, before environmental legislation was little more than a small consideration, South Africa’s mining companies were showing respect for the country’s national heritage site.

In the latter half of the 1970s, the state-owned steel company Iscor (which was subsequently split into Exxaro and Kumba Iron Ore) completed prospecting for coal in the Kruger National Park. While internet research reveals some controversy around the situation, it appears “Iscor would not even consider the advisability or practicability of conducting mining operations in the reserve, apart from studying the geological survey’s drilling data pertaining to the Kruger National Park as they become available” (Journal of the South African Institute of Mining & Metallurgy, May 1978).

Apparently when the situation became publicly known towards the end of 1977, it aroused grave concern among both the public and conservation circles and became a highly emotive issue. Iscor ended up developing the Tshikondeni mine (now an Exxaro mine) to the north of the Levuvhu River during the early 1980s,.

Before concluding, I would like to introduce our faithful readers to Inside Mining’s incoming editor, Gerhard Hope, who has joined the publication after a four-year stint in Dubai working on a successful weekly construction magazine. Over the years he has gained experience in the mining capital equipment field and is looking forward to taking Inside Mining forward and growing it further.

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