Mining, in spite of its immense contribution to the economic development of South Africa, has often been condemned for its numerous negative impacts. Some of the unavoidable impacts have, over the years, disturbed the balance of the environment. Coal mining leads to the emission of dust, suspended particles and poisonous gas that causes air pollution. Surface water too gets contaminated due to the release of several harmful elements. Underground coal mining, in particular, leads to the degradation of soil fertility, deteriorating its quality and making it toxic. Further, deforestation due to the loss of flora and fauna and diminishing natural vegetation also results from mining.
However, with these challenges constantly coming in the way of successful mining, organizations like Atha Group are finding out ways of mitigating the environmental issues. Atha Africa Mining Ventures projects, therefore, incorporate plans that work towards preserving the much-needed balance in the environment that we live in.
Some of the sustainable mining practices include reducing inputs that lead to water and energy consumption, minimizing waste production and land disturbance, preventing pollution at mine sites and ensuring successful reclamation activities and mine closure. Energy consumption can be reduced by relying more on renewable and clean energy sources such as solar and wind. The land-use impacts of mining can be reduced by lowering the overall footprint of the mining area, the amount of waste produced and stored and maintaining bio-diversity by transplanting endangered plants found on the site, wherever and whenever possible.
The Yzermyn underground coal mining project is an example worth sharing. The project focuses entirely on sustainable environmental management. The company has already committed R83.5 million towards environment protection and sets waste management and rehabilitation of existing alien-invaded wetlands as its primary focus areas.
Mining is indispensable for the upliftment of a country like South Africa. It creates job opportunities, brings about social balance and fosters Black Economic Empowerment. The only risks come from its impact on the environment and mitigating these is the best way of deriving the most out of this valuable activity.