Developing a national mine closure risk and opportunity atlas for South Africa

Type Conference Paper - Mine Closure 2023: Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Mine Closure
Title Developing a national mine closure risk and opportunity atlas for South Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2023
City Reno
Country/State USA
Mining is deeply embedded in the history of modern South Africa and has played a major role in the country’s geopolitical and socio-economic development. It continues to be a critical contributor to the national economy (7.5% of GDP) and the world’s supply of metals and minerals, producing 74% of global platinum, 36% of chrome ore, 36% of manganese, 23% of zirconium, 8% of diamonds, 3.5% of gold and 3.2% of coal. There are currently 202 operating large-scale mines owned by 90 mining companies and hosted by 325 urban and rural communities across South Africa, home to 6.5 million people. Many of these communities are dependent on mining for jobs and local business, and they will be significantly affected by mine closure. Mine closure risks and land-use opportunities are site-specific, and affected by numerous social, economic, environmental, governance and infrastructural factors, and policies and practices need to take them all into account. National government and other stakeholders need guidance in terms of identifying high risk areas, relevant policy interventions and suitable post-closure land-use opportunities. This paper describes one aspect of a 3-year research project aimed at producing mine closure risk ratings for every large-scale mine and a post-closure land use opportunity framework to inform and support mine closure planning. A South African Mine Closure Risk and Opportunity Atlas has been developed using ArcGIS and QGIS software as a publicly available online tool. It shows the locations and key characteristics of all mines and communities, preliminary risk ratings for likelihood of closure, social impact and environmental impact, as well as their underlying data so that the user can make their own assessment. Post-closure land use opportunities can be analysed based on diverse datasets pertaining to communities, municipalities, land, water, energy, biodiversity and infrastructure by users of the Atlas as part of a bigger analytical process. The Atlas adds value through its diversity and comprehensiveness with 52 nation-wide datasets displayed, its functionality allowing users to perform typical GIS-type tasks, and its accessibility to all stakeholders as it is designed for computers and smartphones. It has been tested with experts from civil society, academia, consulting, mining companies and government and applied to case studies of post-mining land-use in platinum, gold and coal mining areas. While it has been developed for South Africa, the concept, design and insights could be applied to any mining country in the world.

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