Mining is one of the largest contributing industries to the South African economy. Not only does it bring in billions of rands for the country but mining is also a major employment sector for South Africans. The entire mining industry has an estimated value of R20.3-trillion, so it plays a critical role in the functioning of South Africa.
Like most industries, mining is facing mounting pressure to become more environmentally-friendly and sustainable. Regulations and legislation are slowly enforcing circular economy-based business models, which is a good thing. For the mining industry to change with the times, it will need to find ways to integrate waste management strategies into its functioning.
One such suggestion is to use waste to power operations at mines across South Africa. The recent African Mining Indaba saw key stakeholders share their visions for the future of the mining industry and share ways to make the sector better. Using waste as a source of fuel is not a new idea – there are hundreds of examples of factories in various industries using their waste as a source of fuel.
Running mining operations with waste-based sources of fuel and similar Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) is key to a sustainable future with strict legal compliance. The mining sector is closely watched by society, environmentalists and the government. Implementing good EMPs will ensure that the industry continues to be a foundation for South Africa’s functioning.
Zero-waste-to-landfill goals for mining sector
The Polokwane Declaration sets strict targets for mines. One of these goals is zero-waste-to-landfill by 2022, which has recently been revised to ensure that 70% of mining waste is diverted from South Africa’s landfills. A number of mining conglomerates have already signed the Polokwane Declaration and ensured their compliance with the regulatory framework.
Other important legislation adhered to by local mining operations includes the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) 107 of 1998, and the Waste Act 59 of 2008. These frameworks ensure ongoing commitment from mines to eliminate unnecessary wastage and to reuse waste where feasible.
In the long run, it is vital that the mining sector optimise its resource efficiency through sustainable processes. The recovery and reuse of waste for recycling or energy production should be one of the mining industry’s priorities.
Forming sustainable partnerships
The goal to reach zero-waste-to-landfill has put mining conglomerates on a path to sustainability. Strategic partnerships have been formed between mines and waste management companies, like Averda, to help implement waste interventions and strategies.
Mines can work alongside waste management companies to minimise their impact on the environment and implement meaningful EMPs. Averda can assists mines with their waste handling and disposal, or to set up waste-based fuel operations on-site.
Plastic waste or chemical-based refuse can be converted into an alternative fuel source to power furnaces or generators. Organic waste that is combustible can also be a sustainable alternative to diesel. These solutions come with the added benefits of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and being cheaper than fossil fuels.
By collecting waste on-site and from the surrounding staff communities, South African mines may be able to generate enough waste for use as a source of fuel. Not only does this help the environment and further the mine’s aim to reach zero-waste-to-landfill, but it also reduces costs for fuel.
Averda is a leading waste management provider with over 50 years of experience across three continents. Through growth, transformation and engagement, we strive to find new ways of managing waste while protecting the community and environment.
By pairing international expertise with local insights, we have secured our position as one of South Africa’s most respected providers of waste management and industrial cleaning services. We also operate in the recycling, pipe inspection, CCTV, infrastructure inspection, hydro-demolition, high-pressure water jetting and catalyst handling industries.
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