Corporations need to regularly improve their mitigation measures to reduce the environmental impact of emissions on the surrounding atmosphere and the communities around the mine, writes Advocate Tsheko Ratsheko, Group Manager Environment, Mining licences and Sustainability at Exxaro Resources.
As the world looks to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change and keep rising global temperature to below two degrees Celsius by 2100, collective responsibility and action from governments, companies and communities is the key to achieving this goal.
Days like Zero Emissions Day, allow us to raise awareness and address climate change issues within our stakeholders and society. Zero Emissions Day challenges us to make process changes that will contribute to minimising our carbon footprint and in the long run make the world a better place and preserve life on our planet.
In response to these climate change challenges, Exxaro has repositioned itself as a diversified organisation with renewable energy solutions and mineral resource capabilities, critical and relevant in a world of low-carbon emissions.
Our Sustainable Growth and Impact Strategy is proof that our environmental stewardship is intentional. This vision has encouraged our investment of R1.5-billion to develop two wind farms in the Eastern Cape, which delivered 239 megawatts (MW) of reliable and clean power to the national grid for the FYE 31/12/20. We expect revenue contribution from our renewable energy business to grow over time as we increase our investment.
The impact of the strategy focuses on the “Just Transition principle” which seeks to balance business financial performance and the South African economic needs, ecosystem protection and the society adaptive capacity in the face of climate change.
We remain true to our purpose of powering better lives in Africa and beyond and differentiate our strategy through our commitment to business and community resilience through sustainable impact. Impact is in our DNA.
We have been awarded several ESG awards – and the latest being the Best Sustainability Reporting Award in the 2021 Environmental, Social and Governance Investing Reporting Awards as well as the VigeoEIRIS Top 100 Best Emerging Market list for the fifth time.
Key to this sustainable impact, is how we empower our communities to transition to a low carbon world with us. This can be seen in our inactive sites where we have implemented rehabilitation activities. We have also developed a Mineral Succession Programme for each site – in collaboration with the communities in the area. The program sees Exxaro as a catalyst to community development and environmental stewardship.
Further, rehabilitated land is leased to communities for farming production – with coordinated assistance on soil management, water management and general land holding skills. Guided by the adage: “charity begins at home”, Exxaro has defined five priority geographic focus areas for impact – around active and closed mines and in key labour sending areas.
In partnership with other mining operations, regulators, and communities we are regularly collaborating to address these critical issues and environmental impacts. Which is where conferences like Coal Safe Day come in handy allowing social dialogues and collaborations that strive towards zero emissions to take place.
Biodiversity loss has also been identified as being a significant risk in the context of climate change. Considering this, we have been implementing several projects to ensure that our mines coexist in harmony with the environment and the communities. These projects, which are done in collaboration with community cooperatives, include Alien Invader Eradication Projects, Wetland Rehabilitation Projects, and Biodiversity Relocation Programmes.
We work with Local Municipalities on water security and waste management projects. In Lephalale we have donated land to the municipality to start a landfill site – which could be targeted to be an energy generating facility in the near future. Our involvement in the Mokolo Crocodile River Water Augmentation Scheme ensures water security in the whole Lephalale region.
For the past decade we have actively worked with research institution by sponsoring three University Chairs at University of Witwatersrand, University of Pretoria, and University of South Africa – to support research on environmental and climate change issues confronting our business and society. We are proud to also support the municipalities through a Municipal Capacity Building Programme (MCBP). The University Chairs offers support, such as the training in climate change, energy/water/land management and the opportunity to give post graduate research access to previously disadvantaged students in these areas. We do these not because we seek accolades, but because we believe fundamentally that building a sustainable society requires active business participation and commitment in creating real impact
In conclusion, whilst climate change is generally seen as a risk for coal – it also presents opportunities for mining operations to build a resilient, cohesive, and compelling growth and impact story. These kinds of sustainable investments are one example of the kind of impact big businesses can have in providing clean and reliable energy in support of a low-carbon world.