A pilot project at a former operating coal mine in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province is showcasing how different industry stakeholders can work together to achieve common ESG outcomes, according to the partners involved.
The Mpumalanga Winter Wheat Pilot, launched in April this year, aims to show how remediated mine land and water can provide economic opportunities for households and the broader community once a mine is closed.
The pilot is trialling a variety of winter wheat at two sites including a rehabilitated mine site at the Umsimbithi-owned Wonderfontein mine and on nearby community land. Successful implementation will mean improved food diversity and security, added farm-based employment, and, over time, the possible introduction of new skills behind crop processing, the partners said.
The pilot is being executed by Melbourne-headquartered Business for Development in partnership with Glencore, Umsimbithi, ICMM Impact Catalyst and the MWCB.
It runs from April 2021 to January 2022, with the program set to scale and support more than 14,300 smallholder farming families. These farming families support 57,000 people residing in the Mpumalanga province, a region providing more than 80% of South Africa’s coal resources.
“A key strength of the pilot is the combination of each partner’s skills and insights – MWCB’s knowledge of the region’s water and land constraints; ICMM’s mine closure knowledge; Business for Developments’ on-the-ground experience in developing agriculture programs linked to market; Glencore’s commitment to sustainably transitioning their mine sites; and Impact Catalyst’s knowledge of South Africa’s regulations and government requirements – enabling the team to develop a realistic strategy to transition the region both environmentally and economically,” the partners said.
On completion in December, key operational learnings will be shared with the South African Government on how Mpumalanga can transition from mining (which accounts for 29.8% of provincial GDP) – through the creation of new jobs, skills, investments and a more equal, resilient local economy.
Following this, Business for Development will look at developing the required systems, including expanded distribution and markets for the wheat, to replicate the program on other sites.