Surface mining operations are a major contributor to the national economy and should not be hamstrung by unnecessary restrictions to access, nor costly administrative red tape that may reduce the profitability and long-term sustainability of an operation.
In many instances, these surface mining operations are responsible for extracting comparatively low profit margin materials such as building materials (sand and aggregate), salt and dimension stone products that are essential to society. In the case of building material, these have a direct impact on the cost and quality of our infrastructure such as roads, bridges, hospitals and other essential infrastructure.
Nico Pienaar, director of surface mining industry association, Aspasa, says punitive and oppressive application of the law by the Department of Mineral Resources, or individual mining inspectors, has the potential to derail surface miners’ efforts and cause the industry to become uncompetitive. This could result in the loss of countless jobs and considerable revenue.
“Our quarries and mines in South Africa already have a lot to contend with considering the current low commodities price, high equipment and fuel costs, illegal mining and onerous legal framework. We therefore ask that the application of law be applied in an uncomplicated and consistent manner regardless of the region, size, methods or minerals extracted.
“We want to see smart legislation being applied ie. We want better implementation of existing legislation rather than adding new obligations. In some instances, it may even be expedient to revise and streamline existing legislation to simplify compliance and ensure that this form of mining remains economically viable.
“Already fierce competition for land-use, legal complexity, lengthy permitting procedures and the not-in-my-backyard approach adopted by landowners is threatening the viability of quarries and is forcing building materials to be obtained from sites situated ever-further afield. This has the effect of driving up prices and the cost of construction. It is also endangering the country’s access to other resources as a result of these cost pressures,” says Nico.
Nico continues that Aspasa is also playing its part and is actively promoting the responsible and efficient extraction of minerals including the concept of adopting a circular economy. This focuses on all aspects of the lifecycle of a product from using optimal extraction methods to efficient production and transport modes to proximity from the marketplace and the development of local economies.
“The usage and recycling of products in also promoted, as is the restoration of the site once its land-use has come to an end. Aspasa and its members will continue to foster environmental awareness among members and where possible we encourage them to work with universities, research centres and interested stakeholders to research and develop strategies for future land use.
“We will also continue to raise awareness of the importance of our industry and the role that it plays in the development of our country. We also need to address misconceptions of it being an unsafe or environmentally unfriendly practice through education and communication with the public and communities surrounding our mine and quarry sites.
“Our quarries lead by example and have adopted strict management policies relating to environment, health and safety which is audited on an annual basis to ensure legal compliance, as well as compliance with our own strict requirements. Aggregates are the most used bulk material on the planet and are essential to mankind. The question is not whether we need quarries or not, but rather how do we obtain it in a safe and sustainable manner?
“The same goes for other commodities such as coal, iron, salt etc, so we must ensure that red tape and legal complexity does not make the extraction of these so costly that it becomes unprofitability,” concludes Nico.