Managing biodiversity in a developing country mining context
South Africa is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. However, biodiversity is suffering under the huge demand for natural resources and the increasing dependence of rural communities on these same resources. It has also become apparent that an alarming number of species are threatened, endangered or even destroyed. Surveys have revealed that 34% of the country’s 440 terrestrial ecosystems are threatened. The three severest threats to biodiversity are overexploitation, overgrazing and mining. There is however a range of international, regional, national and local laws and best practice guidelines that aim to protect and preserve the natural faunal and floral diversity of the various rural areas and regions. The prescription of sustainable practices enables communities that depend on the services of ecosystem in their area, to utilise without depleting the resources provided by nature. South Africa is a signing party to more than seven conventions and treaties that either protect or govern biodiversity. In addition to this, the South African government has promulgated eighteen pieces of legislation and guidelines to protect and govern the use of biodiversity. The focus of this study was on the impacts platinum mining have on biodiversity and how effectively these impacts are managed. Data for the case study was obtained from Impala Platinum. Impala leases its land from the Royal Bafokeng Nation and inter alia shares it with the people who use the areas in between for grazing and other subsistence activities. The aim of the study was, in the first place to identify how Impala Platinum’s Environmental Management Plans (EMP’s) and Closure Plan (which manages current and post mining activities and their impacts) are aligned with the various international, national and local requirements for biodiversity management, and secondly to evaluate the effectiveness of the current management measures put in place, which regulates activities impacting on biodiversity. To give effect to the above outcome it was necessary to first identify the various international, national and local treaties, legislature and guidelines. Secondly, an environmental risk assessment was conducted where the current management measure were weighed against the various international, national and local requirements in order to deduce the level of effectiveness of the current EMP’s and Closure plan. It was found that the majority of the EMP’s compiled under the Environmental Conservation Act No. 73 of 1989 (ECA) lack substantive management and preventative measures. It was only in the later EMP’s (between the years 2000 - 2004) that the prescribed management measures improved and became more effective. This was because the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process had matured in South Africa and an entire new regime of more descriptive EIA regulations had been promulgated under the National Environmental Act No. 107 of 1998, which repealed the majority of the outdated ECA regulations. It was also found that the environmental standards, management objectives and priorities that were developed in the EMP’s did not contingently and specifically reflect the conditions in relation to the environmental, developmental and biodiversity contexts to which they apply. The Closure plan on the other hand, was a regurgitation of the same unimaginative objectives focusing on remedying past legacies instead of providing a lasting solution to sustain and improve the environmental conditions left by the mine, and most importantly it does not address the social issues that result from mine closure. For example, the overexploitation and overgrazing of the areas in between the various mining operations by the Royal Bafokeng Nation’s people is a crucial aspect that has not been thoroughly addressed in the respective documents. Habitat disturbance, which was not addressed for instance, requires a wide range of actions e.g. educating local communities on pasture management, post–rehabilitation monitoring, amelioration etc. To improve compliance with current legislation and adherence to the guidelines proposed by best practice initiatives, various recommendations are put forward to control both the negative activities brought on by the Royal Bafokeng and Impala Platinum. These include the implementation of: Biodiversity (inclusive) impact assessment, good environmental governance, the precautionary approach, the ecosystems approach, sustainable biodiversity management practices through conservation planning, biodiversity action plans, stewardship and land care tools, conservation plans, biodiversity offsets, effective mine closure planning and the forming of a Biodiversity Action Steering Committee (BASC). Finally, an eight step model is proposed as a tool to evaluate the effectiveness of specifically the platinum mine’s EMP’s and Closure plans to manage activities affecting biodiversity. The model is based on the concepts of direct and indirect drivers of change and the Deming cycle and is an elaboration of the model proposed by UNEP and the International Association of Impact Assessment. The model focuses on both the natural and anthropogenic drivers that may affect biodiversity and will aid the management of a mine to supplement the shortcomings of these documents. As an indirect outcome the model may possibly even improve, the relationship between the specific company and the communities with which it shares its land.