An integrated approach in combating illegal mining must be strengthened – Premier Mokgoro
North West Premier, Prof. Tebogo Job Mokgoro believes the integrated approach in combating illegal mining activities must be strengthened to achieve greater results.
Premier Mokgoro made the remarks during his visit to Matlosana Local Municipality following the discovery of 20 dead bodies suspected to be that of illegal miners near Lawrence Park’s mine ventilation shaft which is no longer operational in Orkney near Klerksdorp.
Premier Mokgoro said the situation is very much unacceptable and this calls for immediate action.
“The situation calls for drastic deliberate action that should happen almost immediately. I made it very clear that we have to strengthen our integrated approach towards dealing with illegal mining. Our efforts must be more sustainable and long-lasting in terms of effectiveness.
We really believe that not sufficient role players have been taking part in operations. Going forward we will pull all resources together to combat, counter and eradicate this menace completely” remarked Premier Mokgoro.
In his visit, Premier Mokgoro was accompanied by MEC for Community Safety and Transport Management, Sello Lehari as well as the Acting Provincial Commissioner-General Dintletse Molefe.
Before the inspection, Premier received a report on efforts by the South African Police which included different operations geared towards dealing with the illegal mining.
The reports painted a sophisticated operation by the heavily armed illegal miners in different Matlosana municipality towns. Over 50 people have been arrested in different operations and gold material as well as firearms were seized. They are still appearing in court.
MEC for Community Safety and Transport Management Sello Lehari said residents’ needs to work with the police to arrest those who are behind these operations which are problematic to the communities in the area.
“Police are on high alert and investigation are ongoing. Others have been deployed in the identified hot spots. We are expecting more arrests soon. Residents must work with us and give us the necessary information. Thus far the information that came through is not enough. We need to educate our people to work with the police and inform us because the perpetrators are part of our communities. Indeed an integrated will go a long way in dealing with the illegal miners” said MEC Lehari.
Sustainable joint operations are expected to ensue in due course.
Environmental stewardship and the mining sector – powering a greener future
By Advocate Tsheko Ratsheko, Group Manager of Environment, Mining Licences, and Sustainability at Exxaro Resources
We and our planet are in an environmental crisis. Climate change, population growth, pollution, poverty, and an increasing demand for natural resources which are damaging to our natural ecosystems, are some of the most significant challenges we must overcome. The impact of human industry on our atmosphere, land, water, and biodiversity is not only visible today but is also increasing over time.
But with these pressing challenges also come unique opportunities for change. Reducing the environmental impact of the mining industry has become more than an ethical or regulatory imperative; it can also be a viable business model that capitalises on resource efficiency to achieve long-term sustainability and business resilience.
Exxaro is one of South Africa’s largest coal mining companies but also one of the first significant investors in renewable energy solutions. Protecting our ecosystems and transitioning towards cleaner, renewable energy has long been a core strategic objective for Exxaro.
The importance of environmental stewardship
Responsible environmental stewardship is about protecting and preserving natural resources for the greater good of all our stakeholders. Water scarcity, air pollution, biodiversity threats, hazardous waste, and climate change all pose significant environmental and financial risks that we need to manage while delivering on other business objectives. Without a clear environmental strategy in mind, it is not possible for the business to be able to respond effectively to the emergent systemic shocks and be sustainable. Given our dependence on natural resources and systems for human sustainability, an inconsiderate approach to environmental stewardship will undermine much-needed development and human progress.
Since 2006, we have developed group-wide environmental management standards which are reviewed annually and guided by reference to global instruments. In the next 10 years, we plan to increase our efforts and focus on environmental stewardship by reducing our greenhouse gases through investing in self-generated renewable electricity and alternative fuels, ensuring water availability through efficiency and recycling efforts, managing the potential effects of severe weather events (such as heatwaves) through best practice adaptive methods and waste management through increased recycling considerations.
Transitioning to a low-carbon future
Fossil fuels are becoming a less acceptable energy source and global energy generation is moving towards renewable energy, hence Exxaro has made the strategic decision not to seek further growth in thermal coal. As the largest supplier of coal to Eskom, however, our coal portfolio remains a valuable natural resource that must be extracted optimally and responsibly to continue providing energy security, which will support economic growth and social development in South Africa. An early maximisation of the value of our coal assets will enable our transition to low-carbon alternatives while minimising the social impact on employees and communities that depend on the coal economy and enabling a Just Transition to a low-carbon economy.
In 2009, we made our first significant investment in renewable energy with the Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm, providing 95 megawatts of clean, zero-carbon energy into the national power grid. In 2012, we partnered with the Tata Power Company to form Cennergi and began our second renewable energy project: the Amakhala Emoyeni Wind Farm. In 2019, we further bolstered our renewable energy portfolio by acquiring the remaining 50% share of Cennergi.
With these investments, we have firmly established ourselves as a leader in green energy while continuing to deliver high-quality coal to our existing clients. Building our renewable energy portfolio not only gives us long-term resilience to climate-related risks but also opens up alternative economic activities.
Full carbon disclosure
Because we currently still rely on fossil fuel as our primary energy resource in South Africa, managing our emissions remains a priority. South Africa has arguably set the most aggressive emissions target of any developing country, aiming to reduce emissions by 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025. Global leaders are meeting in Glasgow in November 2021 at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), and each member party (including South Africa) must present revised commitments on their carbon emission targets. If anything good has come from the pandemic, lockdown periods have shown that these targets can be met, albeit through severe restrictions on economic activity.
Exxaro measures manage and report energy and carbon data in terms of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, which provides a standard measurement platform to compare emissions internationally and locally. During 2020, we reported a 9% decrease in carbon intensity and a 7% reduction in electricity intensity due to energy efficiency projects at our business units.
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a UK-based organisation that oversees a global environmental disclosure system, provides valuable insights into corporate strategies for environmental stewardship. The system also helps to channel investment to companies adhering to sustainable carbon and emissions management. It also provides our environmental reporting with a central data repository that is audited and assured externally every year. That level of transparency in environmental reporting is crucial, as it holds organisations liable for their emissions.
Water, waste, and air
Environmental stewardship must also extend beyond carbon considerations. Water is a strategic natural resource for South Africa and our business, which is why we have committed to responsible and sustainable water use through efficient reuse and recycling,
Our waste management policy is also critical to maintaining our licence to operate. We have moved from a cradle-to-grave philosophy to a more circular, cradle-to-cradle approach. We see waste as a business opportunity and have developed cost and benefits analyses of our hazardous waste stream. Using digital systems to track and monitor sources of our hazardous waste, we are also able to eliminate or reuse waste at the source.
Mining activities such as drilling, blasting, crushing, transportation, materials handling, and storing generate dust. We therefore regularly improve our mitigation measures to reduce the impact of these on the surrounding atmosphere, such as avoiding blasts during high wind conditions, applying chemical dust suppressants, or using vegetation on topsoil stockpiles.
During 2020, we focused on going beyond compliance and implemented our reviewed air quality management system at various business units. The dust fallout rate at most of our operations complied with the regulated residential and non-residential limits, largely due to these dust suppression measures.
Preserving biodiversity is critical
Biodiversity loss has been identified as being at significant risk in the context of climate change. Considering this, we have been implementing several projects to ensure that our mines coexist in harmony with the natural environment. These include an Alien Invader Eradication Programme, a Wetland Rehabilitation Project, and Biodiversity Relocation Programmes.
These initiatives and programmes aim to protect indigenous flora and fauna species and support local ecosystems beyond the areas Exxaro operates in. We have committed to exceeding our biodiversity goals so that both current and future generations can enjoy a clean and flourishing natural environment.
Powering a greener future
There is a common misconception that the mining sector cannot coexist with environmental stewardship but Exxaro has proven otherwise. Guided by environmental sustainability practices and our vision “Resources Powering a Clean World’ to direct our business strategies, we have strengthened our organisational resilience while protecting the future of our environment. These are stewardship practices will transfer to future mining opportunities for sustainable growth.
Over the years, we have developed a comprehensive response for climate change that will continue to reap benefits for our company, our communities, and the environment for years to come.
Are businesses ready to attract tomorrow’s investors?
Thought leadership article by Joe Keenan, Managing director, BME, a member of the Omnia Group
The world has become rapidly alive to the threats posed by climate change, and mining companies are seeing their shareholders demanding more than just a financial return. Investors – both institutional and private – want their mineral portfolios to speak to their value systems, and these values now centre increasingly on sustainability and shared value for all stakeholders.
Like the mining companies they service, mine suppliers and technology providers should be looking beyond the customer demands of today to remain relevant to the investors of tomorrow.By the same token, others in the mining ecosystem should have similar concerns about their respective futures. The question for our sector might be posed along these lines: How does a blasting and explosives company, for instance, position its brand to be relevant not only to its current customers but to future investors?
To be sure, supply companies receive business from mines because they provide valuable solutions that make mines productive and help keep them viable. That is no longer enough, however. Just as the South African mining sector is subject to the country’s Mining Charter and BEE compliance requirements, so there is a growing expectation globally that mines prioritise environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns. The once ‘optional’ approach that businesses serve the broader good is now becoming mainstream as more businesses aspire to make a positive impact and leave behind a better world.
In mining, there are already thresholds for suppliers to clear in the field of safety. Many mining companies will not entertain tenders from suppliers whose recordable case rate (RCR) exceeds a certain maximum level. The same often applies to inclusive procurement, where mines expect suppliers to support their efforts to place business with local firms in the vicinity of the mining operation.
While some companies are already driving compelling, integrated sustainability strategies, others are exploring how best to diversify themselves. The emphasis is on going beyond their current offerings and moving further into the sustainability spectrum, with a focus on ESG and ‘green mining’ imperatives. Looking ahead 30 years, for instance, it is clear that fossil fuels will be playing a much-diminished role in energy production – and will be in considerably less demand. European countries are applying their Green Deal, through which the region aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. We are already seeing major mining players extracting themselves entirely from the coal sector – for reasons related partly if not largely to the strategic recalibration of many investors and lenders in the light of climate change. Equally, responsible businesses are increasingly choosing like-minded partners, who share their vision for sustainability.
It is worth remembering that coal is still the planet’s most mined mineral – at almost 8-billion tons in 2019. The anticipated decline in this segment of the market is therefore likely to have a considerable impact on most supply companies to the mining sector; it will certainly have an effect on explosives and blasting providers – although this will depend on regional location and other factors.
The uncertainty in mining’s future might not stop there. Alternatives to coal-fired generation will have to be found, and this is already leading to greater interest in other commodities such as battery raw materials. Some of these will continue to require blasting in a hard rock environment, while others will not – being mineable by free digging. As technology develops, there is even the prospect of energy being generated or stored using materials or substances that are not mined at all; for example, research is being carried out into the electrical storage capacity of certain plant-based material.
The pace of this technological change is being spurred on by tomorrow’s generation, who see in it an epochal opportunity for a more sustainable future. Those who make up this generation are not just the pioneers of a new age but are the investors of the future. It is they who will set the preconditions for investment in coming decades, and it is clear they will prioritise sustainability.
Many – perhaps most – financial institutions have set demanding goals for their investment portfolios, and it is increasingly vital for capital-seeking firms to know what those comprise. They are certainly not ‘tick box’ requirements that can be applied when capital is needed; they are strategic elements that require considerable planning and years of dedicated implementation.
As suppliers to mines, our current commitment to creating value for customers – and to building the technology that will help us to achieve this vital goal – should not blind us to the broader, tectonic shifts underway in society. These promise to drive our economies toward greater sustainability, but they will demand fundamental changes in value systems that many businesses do not yet seem ready to embrace.
Rio-Carb R-C700 wear liner plate is the ‘green steel’ alternative
As a market leader in wear solutions for the mining and related industries, R-C700 long-life liner plate from Rio-Carb offers the benefit of significantly reduced greenhouse (GHG) emissions for its customers.
How optimised energy management delivers sustainability at the Fekola Gold Mine
By Luke Witmer, General Manager, Data Science, Wärtsilä Energy Storage and Optimization
Since B2Gold first acquired the Fekola gold mine, located in a remote corner of southwest Mali, exploration studies revealed the deposits to be almost double the initial estimates.
A recent site expansion has just been completed, and while the existing power units provide enough power to support the increase in production, the company sought to reduce its energy costs, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and increase power reliability. The addition of a 35MWp solar photovoltaic (PV) plant and 17MW/15MWh of energy storage to the existing 64MW thermal engine plant was decided.
Such an elaborate hybrid configuration needs a powerful brain to deliver on all its potential: Wärtsilä’s GEMS, an advanced energy management system, has been set up to control the energy across the fleet of power sources, thermal, renewable, and battery storage. The integration, control, and optimization capabilities provided by GEMS allow the thermal units to be run at the most efficient rate and enable the battery storage to handle the large load step changes and volatility of the solar PV generation assets.
Integrated Hybrid Energy Solution
In the context of the Fekola mine, which is an off-grid electrical island, the battery is performing a lot of different services simultaneously, including frequency response, voltage support, shifting solar energy, and providing spinning reserves. The energy load is very flat, with a steady consumption rate around 40MW as the mining equipment is operating consistently, 24/7. However, if an engine trips offline and fails, the battery serves as an emergency backstop. The controls reserve enough battery energy capacity to fill the power gap for the time it takes to get another engine started, and the software inside each inverter enables the battery to respond instantaneously to any frequency deviation.
The reciprocating engines operate most efficiently at 85-90 percent of their capacity, this is their “sweet spot”. But if there is a sudden spike in demand, if a little more power is needed, or if mining equipment is coming online, then another engine needs to be run to meet the extra load. With the battery providing spinning reserves, the engines can be kept running at their sweet spot, reducing the overall cost per kilowatt hour. Moreover, with the solar plant providing power during the day, three to four engines can be shut down over this period, providing a quiet time to carry out preventive maintenance. This really helps the maintenance cycle, ensuring that the engines operate in a more efficient manner.
Solar PV volatility can be intense. On a bright day with puffy clouds passing by a solar farm of this size can easily see ramps of 25MW over a couple of minutes. This requires intelligent controls, dynamically checking the amount of solar that can be let into the grid without causing an issue for the engine loadings or without overloading the battery.
Conducting the Orchestra
The GEMS intelligent software provides the optimization layer that controls all the power sources to ensure that they work together in harmony. The user interface (UI) gives access to all the data and presents it in a user-friendly way. Accessible remotely, all operations are simulated on a digital twin in the cloud to verify the system controls and simulate the most efficient operating scenarios to lower the cost of energy. This is an important software feature, both during and after commissioning as it allows operators to train on the platform ahead of time and familiarise themselves with the automated controls and dynamic curtailment of renewables. The UI provides the forecast for renewables and the battery charge status at any given moment, it can provide push email or phone notifications for alerts; telling operators when to turn off an engine and when to turn it back on.
The software is constantly analysing the data and running the math to solve the economic dispatch requirements and unit commitment constraints to ensure grid reliability and high engine efficiency. Load forecasting integrates the different trends and patterns that are detectable in historic data as well as satellite based solar forecasting to provide a holistic approach to dispatching power. The Fekola site has a sky imager, or cloud tracking camera with a fisheye lens, that provides solar forecasts for the next half hour in high temporal resolution.
To ensure that operators really understand the platform, and have visibility over the advanced controls, the UI provides probability distributions of the solar forecast. Tracking the forecast errors enables operators to see whether the solar is overproducing or underproducing what the forecast was expecting at the time and provides visibility to the operators on the key performance indicators. This feedback is an important part of the machine/human interface and provides operators with insight if an engine is required to be turned on at short notice.
Automated curtailment enables the optimization of the system providing a reactivity that people cannot match. By continually monitoring the engine loadings and battery, the system is ready to clamp down on solar if it gets too volatile or exceeds some spinning reserve requirement. For example, if a large, unexpected cloud arrives, the battery is dispatched to fill the gap while the engines ramp up. Once the cloud disappears, however, the engines remain committed to operating for a few hours, and the solar power is transferred to recharge the battery.
Over time, as load patterns shift, the load forecasting algorithm will also be dynamically updating to match the changing realities of the load. As mining equipment hits layers of harder rock, increasing the power load, the system will adjust and dispatch the engines accordingly.
The Fekola mine project incorporates the largest off-grid hybrid power solution in the world, demonstrating the growing case for clean energy and its sustainable and economic potential for mines in Africa and beyond.
As the cost of batteries and solar panels continues to become more competitive, hybrid solutions are proving to be a realistic and effective means for increasing energy reliability and lowering operating costs in any context, thus freeing up resources to improve the human condition; whether through cheaper materials and gainful employment, or by providing broader access to reliable electricity for healthcare, education, and improved quality of life.
H.E. Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of Botswana confirmed for Mining Indaba Virtual
London: Investing in African Mining Indaba (Mining Indaba), part of Hyve Group Plc is honoured to announce that His Excellency, Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of Botswana has confirmed to deliver his presidential keynote address at the upcoming Mining Indaba Virtual.
Climate change is exacerbating many of the risks that mines already face in their daily operations and needs to be factored into planning decisions right from the pre-feasibility stage of projects.
Water management, for example, is becoming more complex as rainfall patterns in many areas start to change in frequency and intensity, according to Philippa Burmeister, principal scientist at SRK Consulting. “This affects mines’ management of their surface water and groundwater resources, as well as biodiversity and wetland management,” she explains.
“Climate change has implications for infrastructure design, as it raises the risk of flooding, water insecurity, and environmental damage.”
PHILIPPA BURMEISTER, PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST, SRK CONSULTING
As an example, she highlighted the importance of water balance as a key aspect of tailings dam design. Here, historical rainfall data is a crucial part of the information necessary to ensure dams’ safe operation in the long term. “As rainfall variability and intensity change, the historical data becomes less reliable in guiding design parameters,” she says. “Operations generally are more likely to be disrupted due to severe weather events like floods or droughts. For instance, heavier storm events may increase water volumes seeping into mine workings, requiring more pumping capacity.”
Ashleigh Maritz, senior environmental scientist at SRK Consulting, notes that climate change is also likely to affect the livelihood resilience of mining communities. “As temperatures and rainfall patterns change, traditional forms of livelihood could be threatened, making communities more reliant on the mines for income and corporate social investment.”
“The way that a mine engages with their stakeholders and supports communities is therefore critical, as it is vital to maintaining its social licence to operate,” adds Maritz.
She pointed out that an important outcome of climate change is likely to be a scarcity of precious resources like water – which could set mines in direct competition with local communities. Rising average temperatures in some regions may also lead to the geographic spread of communicable diseases like malaria – which may affect employees and surrounding communities.
Impacts on public infrastructure will also have a knock-on effect on mines. More frequent flooding or drought will change municipalities’ planning and investment in water supply or stormwater facilities. This may disadvantage the mines or affect mines’ social license to operate.
“This will demand not just a technical solution but careful relationship building so that platforms are created for collaborative and long-term answers with buy-in from all stakeholders,” Maritz attests.
Risk and compliance
Burmeister adds that mining clients are increasingly cognisant of climate change risk. Industry standards are evolving – even in advance of national standards or requirements.
“With financial institutions also seeing the potential risks to their investments posed by climate change, they are increasingly stipulating that climate change issues are addressed in planning studies for mining projects.”
Philippa Burmeister, principal scientist at SRK Consulting
To effectively address the varied risks that accompany climate change, she emphasised that solutions need to be integrated. In other words, technical input must be coordinated across a range of professional disciplines. It is crucial that climate change impacts be ‘mainstreamed’ into various technical disciplines if it is to be effectively addressed.
“Our philosophy at SRK is that climate change must be considered by all disciplines in the project team,” she said. “This includes expertise in various facets of engineering, as well as in the natural and social sciences.”
SRK uses a range of quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate clients’ exposure to climate change risk. These include measuring the project’s greenhouse gas emissions as part of its environmental impact assessment and applying climate change models to identify specific project risks posed by predicted changes in climatic conditions.
Innovating for sustainability
“By integrating SRK’s professional input, we ensure not only that clients are compliant with regulations, but that the many and varied risks of climate change are addressed in their projects,” she says. “This makes them more sustainable and robust in the longer term.”
Maritz noted that the science of climate change modelling is relatively young, leading the company to take an adaptive and dynamic approach – while leveraging off partnerships to develop and apply the power of predictive modelling.
“This assists us in pioneering strategies and tools to manage climate change risks, from initial mine design and operational technical inputs through to social transitioning and mine closure,” she shares. “While monitoring is being undertaken extensively at most mine sites, the interpretation of the data is critical to identifying trends that could prevent undesirable events.”
Digital and data
A key concern for SRK has been the development of better data processing and analysis capacity for the considerable mine data that is already available. This helps guide decision-making around climate change and the risks it poses.
“SRK recently established a dedicated data services unit that works closely with the climate change team to leverage and evolve the latest digital technologies,” she says. “For instance, as part of an innovation project, the team is developing an interactive mining map of South Africa; this provides a coordinated source of geo-located data on various aspects and stages of mining.”
SRK is also looking at developing site-specific climate change-related rainfall models for its mining clients, to better inform their project and operational planning. To support its ongoing innovation efforts, the company holds an annual innovation conference that fosters collaboration between specialists and opens doors to valuable applications.