AfriSam has long led the charge in the cement sector for a cleaner environment and continues to develop and conduct a range of initiatives to maintain the momentum toward a greener planet.
This has a special significance as South Africa is among the world’s largest and fastest growing carbon emitters, according to Nivashni Govender, environmental specialist at AfriSam.
“The country is one of the top ten CO2 emitters in the world when measured per capita,” says Govender. “This places a huge responsibility on the cement manufacturing sector to be proactive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Having established its own environmental department as early as 1992, and developed an environmental policy just two years later, AfriSam has gone on to innovate a number of air quality management improvements. Upgrades in cement kilns and emission filters have led to AfriSam generating some of the lowest dust emissions recorded in Africa.
“Our ongoing focus on alternative fuels and resources (AFRs) has allowed us to steadily reduce the amount of coal burnt in our cement kilns, which in turn contributes to lower CO2 emissions,” she says. “For instance, we have developed and implemented process modifications to allow us to co-process scrap tires in our Dudfield plant – a strategy that also contributes significantly to addressing the environmental hazards posed by bulky tires when they are disposed of in a landfill.
“Rehabilitation and biodiversity at our quarry sites is also a priority, and as early as 1986 AfriSam formed the first trust of its kind specifically to cater for rehabilitation costs on closure – even before this was a legislated requirement for mines,” she says. “Our current strategy of concurrent rehabilitation – in which we conduct rehabilitation as we mine rather than waiting for closure before we start – has proved very effective both from an environmental and ecological perspective, as well as a cost perspective.”
AfriSam’s focus on biodiversity involves detailed and ongoing research to measure the environmental impact of operations on species of flora and fauna, and steps to protect and foster biodiversity where necessary, especially where species are protected by law or endangered.
“Environmental protection also has implications when it comes to aspects of cultural heritage, which we take very seriously,” says Govender. “We initiated a process several years ago to conserve an area of underground caves that were discovered at one of our then active quarries near Sterkfontein in Gauteng – part of a World Heritage Site. As AfriSam we decided that the value of this contribution to our cultural heritage and scientific knowledge far outweighed any income the quarry could generate for the company. Working with partners at the University of the Witwatersrand, we are handing over this valuable national treasure for scientific and public use, while continuing to support its maintenance.”
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