Mashudu Gangazhe, an engineer at Glencore Coal in South Africa, discusses how our commitment to the environment and restoring land to its natural pre-mining state has led us to rehabilitate the Voorslag Farm section of the Spitzkop Mine in South Africa.
"Mining had taken place at Voorslag Farm for nearly a century until ceasing in 1984. Some rehabilitation had been done at the site, but it had been poorly maintained. When we acquired the site in the early 2000s, we recognised that we needed to conduct a study to determine the best design for rehabilitating the site. Through the study, we found that there were many environmental aspects of the site that needed to be improved. The soils on-site were infertile and low in microbial activity. The land, which used to be 90% for grazing, was now 100% wilderness with limited vegetation and habitat diversity. Also, water quality was poor and we found several erosion gullies.
We made sure that our plan was focused on sustainability and, where possible, exceeded legislative requirements. A vegetation assessment in July 2010, measuring the rehabilitation's progress, focused on land capability, soil erosion, land form, soil fertility, and species composition. Our best performing area was land capability, as we were able to transform all of the areas to pre-mining grazing capabilities. We also scored highly on soil fertility. We are particularly proud of this because young mining rehabilitation sites usually do not perform well in this category. However, the results showed we still need to make a bigger effort in promoting a diverse species composition. We responded by developing a biodiversity management plan that incorporated alien plant control and wildfire management.
We also focused on water quality at the site, and developed a water improvement system and long-term water management strategy. We improved the site's water quality and now water has a neutral pH and levels of sulphate in runoff are reduced.
This multi-year rehabilitation effort concluded in June 2011. Our rehabilitation efforts have improved the environmental quality of the site and have also had a positive impact on the surrounding community. We employed local farmers who have the best knowledge of the area to give advice on vegetation for the site and to perform rehabilitation maintenance.
The project has been presented as a case study to share its learnings with local authorities and water management forums. In 2011, the project was shortlisted for the prestigious Nedbank Green Mining Awards for Sustainability, Environment and Socio-Economic Excellence.