The two-day conference is currently taking place in Mpumalanga.
In her presidential address, Land Rehabilitation Society of Southern Africa (LaRSSA) President Raina Hattingh noted significant change in landscapes, highlighting the changes that have taken place in the Mpumalanga Province landscape alone over the past 20 years, pointing out expanding developmental footprints with regards to mining, agriculture and urban sprawl.
This has led to increasing natural resource utilisation of water, land and air, and an increasing dependency on these diminishing resources, which is, in turn, leading to a reduction in land’s natural functionality, Hattingh highlights.
This means that the availability of land for pre-disturbance alternative uses is diminishing.
It is not all doom and gloom, according to Hattingh, who notes that larger footprints of utilised land means that there are larger footprints available for consolidated rehabilitation projects.
Industry stakeholders can now adopt ‘bigger picture’ planning for the integrated rehabilitation landscape and can have larger corridors on which rehabilitation projects can be implemented – in a bid to move away from piecemeal plot planning.
Informing this change in thinking towards consolidated regional land-use planning is the Spatial Planning and Land-Use Management Act (SPLUMA) of 2013; although it is currently aimed at implementation at municipal level, it talks very clearly to the need to identify what the land’s need is into the future and make sure that all development projects are in line with this – into which industry (mining, agricultural and ecological) rehabilitation plans fit nicely, Hattingh notes.
As per notice number GNR 1147 in the Government Gazette published on 20 November 2015, The Minister of Environmental Affairs published the “Regulations Pertaining to Financial Provision for Prospecting, Mining, Exploration and Production Operations” the purpose of which is to regulate the determination and making of financial provision for the costs associated with management, rehabilitation and remediation of environmental impacts resulting from prospecting, exploration, mining and production operations throughout the lifespan of the operation and the latent or residual impacts that may arise in the future.
The publishing of this regulation, Hattingh believes is the first time we are really seeing land-use driving the rehabilitation of landscapes, she enthuses.
There is no longer debate around the importance of upfront end-use planning as a key driver to rehabilitation planning, she says, noting that “end-land use planning is now finally a key consideration guiding rehabilitation and closure planning in all planning domains”.