Afrimat Limited is a leading black-empowerment, opencast mining company that boasts extensive experience in the provision of construction and industrial minerals.

The group’s core subsidiaries have been in operation for more than 45 years and have consistently enjoyed low staff turnover, which has resulted in a deep skills pool.

Real transformation, starting with staff and management and extending to community upliftment, is integral to the group’s sustainability.

In addition, the group has seen environmental conservation as an imperative part of their growth strategy Collin Ramukhubathi, executive head: HR & Sustainability at Afrimat, sat with Inside Mining to discuss the sustainability strategy the group has adopted.

“For us, sustainability forms part of our triple-bottomline strategy. We don’t believe it is just a compliance issue but it is the right thing to do – and it gives us a competitive edge. For Afrimat to continue to grow, it cannot only be through financial profits – people and caring for the environment are where the longevity lies,” Ramukhubathi starts.

Continuous assessment and improvement

The group also indicates that a consistent drive towards efficiency and cost-effectiveness within its current operations positions the group well within the iron ore sector.

As we know, opencast mining has a significant impact on the environment; however, Afrimat has demonstrated a commitment to the continuous improvement of its operations by using its resources responsibly with the aim of reducing its environmental impact.

Ramukhubathi has been the head of Sustainability at Afrimat for three years and says: “All our mines have annual rehabilitation and closure plans; we ensure that all our mines operate according to these plans, and we measure performances annually. Our environmental team does an impeccable job in assessing performance and whenever we feel that the EMPs are outdated, we revise them to bring them back up to standard. These continuous assessments are in line with international best practice and we are committed to revising them accordingly, where we can,” he says.

Mine rehabilitation

With possible amendments to legislation concerning rehabilitation and mine closure, the way in which companies conduct mine closure is under the microscope.

“If you look at the history of mining in the country or in the world, there has been an abuse of the environment by some of the old mining companies; this has led to authorities in South Africa becoming more stringent with regulations. Although I understand where the authorities are coming from, I just believe that we have swung the pendulum to the other extreme, where we have now over-regulated the industry.

“For example, to be able to mine in South Africa, you may need environmental authorisation, a water-use licence, land-use departure ordinance or rezoning, adherence to the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (in the Western Cape), an air emissions licence and a waste licence. All these licences deal with the preservation of the environment; they can take up to four years and cost up to R3 million. You need to apply for all of these from five different ministries. However, in Canada, for example, you only apply to one ministry, it takes less than a year and costs a fraction, and fewer specialist studies are required than in South Africa.

“With that being said, Afrimat believes in the complete rehabilitation of our old mines. We do our best by leaving the land better than we found it. We are also busy looking at options on how we can utilise our old mines to the good of the communities in surrounding areas,” Ramukhubathi explains.

Rehabilitation case studies

Afrimat has a number of operations where rehabilitation measures have been implemented and carried out as a part of the business’s culture.

“We ensure that our mines blend in aesthetically with the surrounding area in which they are located. An example is our Palmiet Quarry at Grabouw, situated next to the N2 in the Western Cape. You cannot see the mine from the nearby highway, since we have built a berm and planted trees and flowers that blend into the area. Another example is at Glen Douglas, at Henley-on-Klip, Midvaal, where we have created what we call a bass lake, which is used for recreation purposes and diving training.

“Essentially, we are busy working on a full carbon footprint strategy, which will see us explore ways to mitigate our carbon tax. Instead of seeing this tax burden as a liability, we believe there are incredible opportunities to do something great here. Watch this space!” he concludes.

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