de beers
A baby elephant enjoys a mud bath in the VLNR Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve

WINNER: De Beers Group

Conserving large tracts of land for biodiversity conservation and research is one of the important ways that the De Beers Group ensures its overall impact on the environment is positive.

Its properties near Kimberley in the Northern Cape and near its Venetia Mine in Limpopo Province, together with conservation areas at both the major diamond mines managed by Debswana in Botswana, make up about 200,000 ha that are dedicated to biodiversity conservation and research.

This article first appeared in Mining Elites in Africa 2019

For every hectare of land used for mining by the De Beers Group, six ha are dedicated to the conservation of nature.

This approach is driven by De Beers Group’s objective to have no net loss of significant biodiversity, an aim which is now strengthened by its major shareholder Anglo American committing to have a net positive impact on biodiversity.

Working proactively with a network of conservation and research partners, including academic institutions and NGOs, De Beers supports a range of research projects that make a broad environmental contribution.

In one of its most recent initiatives, De Beers Group will transport 200 elephants across 1 500 km from its Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve (VLNR) in South Africa to Mozambique.

The operation, one of the largest elephant translocations ever recorded in South Africa, is part of a major conservation initiative to protect the welfare of wildlife in South Africa and help restore Mozambique’s elephant population.

For the first phase of the project, approximately 60 elephants were transported in July and August 2018 from the VLNR to Zinave National Park in central Mozambique.

The remaining elephants will be moved to conservation areas that hold sufficient elephant carrying capacity within Mozambique from next year.

De Beers Group is partnering with Peace Parks Foundation, a leading not-for-profit organisation focused on the preservation of large functional cross-border ecosystems, to carry out the initiative.

Peace Parks Foundation will assist De Beers Group with the translocation, ensuring the elephants’ social groups aren’t disturbed and that they flourish in their new habitat through ongoing monitoring of their wellbeing and enhanced protection efforts.

Covering 32 000 ha and established in the early 1990s, the VLNR can accommodate around 60 elephants without adverse impacts on the surrounding ecosystem.

As part of its investment in the elephant translocation initiative, De Beers Group is also providing Peace Parks Foundation with US$500 000 over five years towards anti-poaching support measures, which will include the hiring and training of new park rangers, and the opening of new access roads to increase patrol coverage.

Judges’ comments:

Marcus Courage: “One of the largest elephant translocations - in partnership with Peace Parks – and the seamless migration of wildlife across the great Limpopo Transfrontier area is astounding.”

Jim Pooley: “This is a really impressive submission; De Beers is putting significant resources into conservation to counter the impact of their mining operations using a 6 to 1 conservation to mining land area ratio. I might buy my wife another diamond now!!”

FINALIST: Migodi Resources

Migodi Resources is an artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM) company based in Mombwo, Kericho County, Kenya.

The company is currently using a mercury free gold extraction processes which is cheap and easily adaptable by other ASGM groups in the country as an advocacy approach to try to eliminate the use of mercury by ASGM miners in Kenya – as well as reduce the health and economic impacts resulting from exposure to the toxic element.

This enables a three-tier benefit: direct advantage to miner’s health, mining economics and environmental safety.

Some of the company’s achievements include:

  • Local content and applicability: Kenyan registered company with interests in small-scale gold exploration and mining
  • Building of a small-scale gold mining site and processing plant, 100% mercury free, suitable for technical studies and training
  • Testing, implementing and promoting available alternative gold mining and extraction techniques to improve the lives of ASGM communities
  • Transfer of knowledge and experience

Judges’ comments:

Marcus Courage: “Non-mercury gold extraction and transfer of knowledge and experience are highlights of this submission.”

Jim Pooley: “This is an impressive submission featuring a local Kenyan being entrepreneurial and innovative while producing gold and limiting the impact on the environment and workers’ health. And all this while he makes money, Africa needs more people like this.”

FINALIST: Coal Agglomeration South Africa

CoalTech, under the company name of Coal Agglomeration South Africa in South Africa, has developed a unique coal agglomeration technology that is providing a commercially viable means to clean up the environmental hazard which is caused by stockpiles of coal fines.

With over 30 Bt of coal fine stockpiles in the world, CoalTech aims to provide solution to reduce this environmental problem while concurrently providing a profitable solution not for CoalTech, but to the mining industry by reducing wastage and lowering production costs.

After five years of research and development, the company has mastered the coal agglomeration process which effectively binds the coal fines and converts them into coal pellets while retaining their original calorific value (CV) and strength.

Its process converts coal waste to a source of energy that has been proven and has passed stringent testing by Bureau Veritas.

With the successful commissioning of a 1 000 tpm plant prototype in early 2013, Coaltech has constructed a 10 000 tpm industrial scale plant in South Africa, which will produce bagged pellets used by stoves which are not only used for cooking but also for heating and for powering local homes.

In addition to our commitment to provide an economically viable source of energy to local homes in South Africa, CoalTech will be creating a dedicated fund to support the local community as part of its continued CSR initiatives.

In addition to increasing coal production in South Africa, CoalTech will be developing multiple industrial scale plants in markets of Poland, Germany, Russia, Pakistan and India.

With a minimum of six plants planned over the next five years, CoalTech intends to create direct employment for over 300 people and process over 1.5 Mt of coal fines.

Judges’ comments:

Jim Pooley: “Innovative technology to convert coal fines waste into a saleable commodity and cleaning the environment while making money.  We need more of this.”

FINALIST: Rainbow Rare Earths

Rainbow Rare Earths’ focus is the Gakara project in Burundi, one of the highest in situ vein grade (47%-67% Total Rare Earth Oxide) rare earths projects globally and the only African producer.

The average rare earth project grade is between 1 - 3%, which means that the resource extraction will produce excessive amount of waste material, whilst at Gakara veins are extracted by manual mining from free digging host rock – no blasting or explosives is required, and the environmental impact is therefore minimal.

Following the extraction, the processing of the raw material is done a short distance away at the Kabezi plat, where simple physical gravity separation technique is used to separate of minerals from waste rock and produce high-grade concentrate.

No complicated or hazardous chemicals are required to retrieve the concentrate.

The company plans to open another mining area at the end of this year where the same kind of low-impact, environmentally friendly technique will be used.

Not only is the mining done responsibly and with minimal impact to environment, but the extracted resources are used in green technologies that help to reduce the global carbon footprint.

Judges’ comments:

Jim Pooley: “Very small-scale mining with limited environmental impact in mining operations and use of local resources.”

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