South Africa: North West Mining Companies to Consider Conservation
Five major organisations at the heart of North West's economy have joined hands to exploit opportunities in the mining industry while taking into account the importance of protecting land from waste contamination and air pollution, writes Kagiso Metswamere.The North West Parks and Tourism Board (NWPTB), the Heritage Park and the three mining companies have signed a collaboration agreement which will see joint and consultative approach to mining in the mineral rich Rustenburg area.Previously, there have been concerns that mining activities took place with little concern for conservation matters like waste management and air pollution, which had a negative impact on the health of residents and the land.Another concern was that while the area had massive mining potential, miners embarked on such activities on the land that could be used for tourism and nature conversation - another key economic strength prevalent in the area.Recently, the three mining companies; Barricks, Boynton and Itireleng Bakgatla Mineral Resources signed an agreement which paved the way for affected community members to be brought on board on issues of mining and conservation in the area.This seemingly progressive gesture follows a lengthy period of consultation between all stakeholders, including the communities.The Heritage Park, which raises awareness around issues of conservation, established a mining collaboration project to deal specifically with issues related to mining, conservation and economic development.Chairperson of the Conversation Sub- Committee of the NWPTB, Gabriel Makgoko described the collaboration between his organisation and the mining companies as an achievement in collaboration between conservation and mining."In the past, mining and conservation were operating separately, the focus has always been on mining."We are very much glad that in the history of South African mining, we are the first province to actually bring mining companies together, to consider the importance of mining and conservation," he said.Mr Makgoko said relevant stakeholders have agreed to support the innovative approach of engaging mining with conservation and tourism in a proactive and collaborative manner, to optimize the return from the land."The signing of collaboration agreement also means that many members of the community will benefit in terms of the jobs created by these mining companies with regard to conservation."We have also agreed with these mining companies to take conservation and mining as the instrument which can be used for development," he said.Seven mining companies have licenses to prospect the platinum and chrome resources in the heritage parks corridor to the immediate north of Pinanesburg National Park.Rustenburg Minerals Development Company had ongoing operations in the region for some time.Other companies such as Anglo Platinum, Barricks, Boynton Platinum, Chrometco, Nkwe Platinum and Anooraq are at different stages of prospecting.Mr Makgoko said all the mining companies have welcomed the collaboration."The mining companies are excited by the prospect of creating really sustainable operations that will result in regional benefits, both now and after the mining lifespan," he said.The Bakgatla Ba Kgafela tribe in Pilanesburg is the largest land owner in the area that is targeted for mining.The tribe's Chief Nyalala Pilane who owns the Itireleng Bakgatla Minerals, signed the agreement on behalf of his company and tribe.He said the collaboration would enhance their working relationship with mining companies and communities in the area."We are very much impressed because the mining companies are showing interest in working together with us to deal specifically with issues related to land and members of the community."We want mining companies to appreciate the fact that the area that they are embarking mining activities on has always being used for conservation."It is important that they take the issues of conservation very serious because we don't want to see this issues changing because they are present, said Chief Pilane.The Chief Executive Officer of Platmin limited, Ian Watson, said his company has agreed to sign the agreement because they wanted to change the perception that mining companies did not take conservation serious."Mining has always being accused of not taking issues of conservation very serious. We have seen this as an opportunity to change this perception."One of the things that we agreed on by signing the collaboration agreement is to consult fully with local authorities when planning to work on the creation of roads, electricity and other major economic development activities," he said.Mr Watson explained that they sought to contribute in job creation and the empowerment of local communities through the signing of the agreement.NWPTB Chief Executive Officer, Charles Ndabeni said they will work closely with these mining companies to also advance the economy of the province."This collaboration is a major commitment which also means that a programme of economic development must be established to ensure that people in the province benefit out of this collaboration," he said.