Greenmined Environmental MD and senior environmental consultant Sonette Smit believes the move to outsourcing environmental aspects is both an appropriate and cost saving stance to have taken. This is specifically true because applications for authorisations, environmental audits and other related activities, all work done in-house at a mine or quarry will need to be reviewed by an independent environmental assessment practitioner, in any event.
Changes in legislation have seen the regulations surrounding the Environmental Act, the Water Act and the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act combined into a single system. While this is advantageous for mines and quarries, the distinct lack of understanding around the requirements has made this quite daunting for individuals within these operations.
Smit says that in the past, mine and quarry managers would have appointed either an in-house person or a consultant to handle the requisite applications.
“Today, even where an in-house person prepares the applications for authorisation, organisations will have to employ the services of an independent consultant to review these as the external review is to ensure the integrity of the information being supplied,” she explains.
Moreover, cut backs, as a result of the pressure under which the mining sector has been operating, have also meant that, in many instances, the infrastructure which supported an in-house environmental department or officer has been significantly reduced. In some cases the environmental aspects of the operation have even been incorporated into the function of the safety department or officer.
“All of these factors has created an increased demand for a skilled independent environmental consultancy with practitioners that can bring complete partiality to the table. This impartiality, coupled with our broad spectrum of applications knowledge and in-depth understanding of the duties as well as the rights of the applicant or licence holder, ensures our customer base of a level of proficiency not readily available elsewhere,” Smit says.
This depth of knowledge and experience includes that of all departmental processes and even though the application process has been dramatically simplified, Smit believes that it is ever more critical for organisations to use the services of practitioners that are able to seamlessly follow the requisite processes through the One Environmental System.
An important differentiator that Greenmined Environmental offers its client base is access to an in-house legal advisor.
“This assists with the processes according to the legislation time frame, and having this level of expertise on hand is a real advantage as should there be any legal issues on a client site then we are able to offer a legal service directly from our consultancy,” Smit says.
“This can translate into a major cost saving in terms of time, which is of the essence in such applications, and is obviously also a saving in bottom line costs.”
Another service offering that is seeing a steady increase in demand is that of occupational hygiene. With the focus on uplifting levels of occupational hygiene and the need to comply with the requirements of the Mine Health and Safety Act operators are reviewing current programmes to ensure that these are in line with the mandatory codes of practice applicable to individual sites.
“We are able to conduct a full audit on occupational hygiene monitoring programmes and this includes aspects such as personnel exposure to noise, airborne pollutants, the thermal environment and ergonomics.
“We are able to assess both the physical and chemical stresses and provide comprehensive feedback,” Smit says.
Such programme audits will determine any gaps in the management and monitoring system, and then identify appropriate corrective action to address any non-conformances. Greenmined Environmental is able to make recommendations in terms of implementing the corrective action and then monitoring the programme going forward.