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A Simply Transition – Repurposing Mine Websites for Agricultural Alternatives


Meg Kauthen, Sustainability Designer at Enterprise for Growth, investigates how the transition in the direction of a low-carbon future can create new agricultural alternatives.

South Africa is extremely depending on coal, with virtually 90 per cent of its vitality coming from coal-fired energy stations, which is additional sophisticated by load shedding – or scheduled outages designed to make sure that provide meets demand. Because the world transitions in the direction of a low-carbon future, how can South Africa transfer away from coal and meet provide calls for with out disrupting folks’s lives?

The transition to scrub vitality additionally brings with it the significance of remodeling land the place mines function to create financial alternatives. This consists of making provisions for each weak employees and various livelihoods for these residing close to the mine.

Guaranteeing a simply transition in the direction of a low-carbon future

The idea is named “Simply Transition” – whereby we work to make sure mining firms return land to the group that can be utilized for different functions. It’s a accountable angle to the surroundings that helps to guarantee that Environmental Social and Company Governance (ESG) necessities are met now, and for future financial fashions – together with agriculture. And not using a Simply Transition, the South African Federation of Commerce Unions has estimated that about 40,000 vitality employees jobs will likely be misplaced. With a inhabitants of 59 million folks, the place unemployment stood above 30 per cent even earlier than the coronavirus pandemic hit, a Simply Transition is crucial for financial progress.

Internationally we have to transfer in the direction of net-zero carbon emissions if we’re going to cut back the affect of local weather change. This implies discovering new technique of producing vitality by way of renewables akin to photo voltaic, wind and geothermal. Nonetheless, as economies transition, governments, NGOs, and mining firms want to begin working in the direction of mine-closure to satisfy sustainability necessities – financial, environmental, and social. With the mining sector set to shut many belongings within the coming many years, 1000’s of group members should be skilled in fashionable agriculture practices which are climate-smart and regenerative, and it must occur now.

Repurposing remediated mine land and water in agriculture characterize a big alternative to revitalize communities, writes the writer. Photograph credit score: Glencore

An agricultural alternative

Why are we discussing this on Farming First? There’s a important alternative to deal with the above difficulty by way of repurposing remediated mine land and water in agriculture.

At Enterprise for Growth, an NGO targeted on creating sustainable livelihoods by way of market-focussed agricultural alternatives, we now have been working with Glencore Coal South Africa, Umsimbithi Mining Ltd, the Worldwide Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), Influence Catalyst, and the Mine Water Coordinating Physique (MWCB) to pilot a wide range of winter wheat at a rehabilitated mine web site and on close by group land in Mpumalanga.

The outcomes are proving to be constructive. It’s anticipated that the outcomes will likely be round 1.5 tonnes per acre for the dryland pilot websites and a couple of.0-2.5 tonnes per acre for the irrigated pilot websites. When the crop has reached 30 per cent moisture ranges within the coming weeks, Enterprise for Growth will take and evaluate the next samples drawn from 4 management websites:

  1. Remediated land irrigated with recent water
  2. Virgin land irrigated with recent water
  3. Remediated land irrigated with handled mine water
  4. Virgin land irrigated with handled mine water

Exams will likely be carried out to evaluate if the remediated land and handled mine water leaves the grain with chemical or mineral residues.

On completion of the wheat pilot, key learnings will likely be shared with the South African Authorities on how the Mpumalanga Province can transition from mining – which accounts for 25.4 per cent of the provincial’s economic system – to a sustainable post-mining agricultural economic system. Profitable implementation will imply improved meals range and safety, added farm-based employment, and doubtlessly new expertise behind crop processing. On condition that the Mpumalanga province is near Johannesburg, the market alternatives are important.

Enterprise for Growth will use key findings to develop the required programs, together with expanded distribution networks and markets for the wheat, to develop the pilot and replicate this system at different websites. Within the coming months, the staff will likely be planting fortified vitamin A maize and testing extra websites. By way of crop rotation, a number of financial alternatives for the group will likely be out there all 12 months spherical.

On the pilot web site, a wide range of winter wheat is grown. Photograph credit score: Glencore

Harnessing current assets

By 2050 we might want to feed two billion extra folks. How can we obtain this with out overwhelming the planet? One reply is to make use of the present assets we now have – remediated mine land and water. Mines transitioning to closure, or these already closed, typically have belongings out there for a round economic system – starting from roads to railway strains, housing, buildings, and so forth. All of those can be found for repurposing into establishing sustainable options.

If we’re actually going to be sustainable – assembly our personal wants with out compromising the flexibility of future generations to satisfy their very own wants – we have to problem standard knowledge, take a look at assumptions, bridge sectors, and embrace change to take measured dangers. Agile and targeted pilots like this will go away a constructive legacy and generate a Simply Transition for right this moment’s and future generations.