environmental incidents for the ninth consecutive year.
environmental incidents for the fourth consecutive year.
US$4.8 million invested towards environmental protection during 2017 (2016: US$0.8 million).
for environmental transgressions or non-compliance with host country legislation for the eighth consecutive year.
US$17.3 million environmental rehabilitation provision (2016: US$16.6 million).
Water management across the Group remains an ongoing challenge.
Waste management at both mines remains a challenge due to their remote location and the lack of appropriate waste-disposal facilities within our host countries.
In 2018 we will ensure continued compliance with the operation-specific social and environmental management plans (SEMPs) and further develop and implement initiatives focusing on water and waste management in the Group.
RELATED UN SDGs
Fresh water is one of the most important, and increasingly scarce, commodities on earth. Increasing pressure, competition and even conflict over water resources is becoming common around the world. Water is a resource that we cannot do without; it sustains human and economic development. As such, caring for our water sources and monitoring our water usage are both imperative from a commercial and moral respect.
At Letšeng, our surface-water-monitoring programme revealed an upward trend of nitrates in the process water. Following investigations, we concluded that this increase is the result of the emulsion-based explosive (ammonium nitrate) generating a residue during incomplete combustion in the blasting process.
We are experiencing seepage from the Patiseng TSF and the Qaqa waste rock dump. The seepage flows into the Patiseng and Qaqa River systems respectively. In both instances an upward trend of nitrates is noted in the effluent. In the Patiseng tributary, a return water system has been constructed to capture the Patiseng TSF. At Qaqa we constructed a wetland which filters nitrates from the water seeping out of the waste-rock dump.
The tributaries of the Khubelu River and one of the tributaries of the Matsoku River drain the Letšeng Diamond Mine lease area. Both these rivers flow into the Senqu River, which feeds into the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme. Safeguarding the quality of water entering the tributaries is, therefore, of the highest priority for both the future of the operation and for the communities that rely on a stable supply of water.
Monitoring for processing-introduced pollutants is ongoing at Ghaghoo, despite the mine having been placed on care and maintenance.
We monitor the total volume of water withdrawn by source to understand the overall scale of potential impacts and risks and impacts associated with our operations’ water use. Doing so in terms of our total water footprint provides an integrated understanding of our water use. For a description of our water and waste footprint analyses see our case study.
Letšeng has developed an integrated water-management plan to protect groundwater and surface water resources. Our efforts to minimise the point source of the nitrate contamination at Letšeng included revising blasting practices and the materials used. For an update on our innovative nitrate-management programme see our case study.
- Total water footprint was 8 496 384m3 (2016: 8 701 985 m3), water sources include municipal supplies, groundwater, surface water and direct rainfall.
- Total water footprint, in relation to carats mined and tonnes of ore treated, was 42.91m3 per carat (2016: 37.8 m3 per carat) and 1.31 m3 per tonne treated ore (2016: 1.21 m3 per tonne treated ore).
- The stress water footprint of the Group (the stress placed on the water system by mining activity consumption) was calculated, and water usage at the operations was found to be sustainable.
- Bioremediation was proven to be successful in the treatment of nitrate contamination.
The negative effects of carbon and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions present a long-term risk to global climate stability, and we recognise the need to apply every effort towards their mitigation.
Managing waste remains a priority for the Group. Careful waste management can lower operational costs and reduce the risk of regulatory action for non-compliance with environmental regulation, as well as protect our social licence to operate. In contrast, unmanaged waste discharge can have a significant impact on land use and water sources in the communities surrounding our operations. This, in turn, can negatively affect the quality of our relationships with our communities, other water users and the public at large, as well as lead to legal action.
Gem Diamonds’ operations produce various types of waste, including domestic and general waste, small volumes of hazardous waste, medical waste and mineral waste.
We make it a point to monitor and measure our carbon footprint in order to develop and implement initiatives to mitigate our impact in this regard. The Group also tracks the tonnes of CO2 emitted per employee and per carat recovered in order to consider our impact in isolation from the size of our operations. For more information on the way in which our carbon footprint is determined, see our case study.
Ghaghoo implemented a waste-separation-at-source initiative and assisted the Lephephe community with waste management where possible. Mineral waste at Letšeng is retained on site in structures designed for this purpose. These structures are operated in compliance with the host country’s requirements, as well as international best-practice standards.
Both operations have waste-management plans to ensure that correct waste-handling mechanisms are enforced. Waste generated by our non-mining operations remains limited to small quantities of domestic waste. Please see our case study for our ongoing initiatives to reduce this.
- Total carbon footprint for the Group was 155 106 tCO2e (2016: 184 765 tCO2e).
- During 2017, the tCO2e per carat was 1.29 tCO2e per carat (2016: 1.1 tonnes of CO2/carat).
- The ratio of tCO2e per employee in 2017 was 347.77 tCO2e per employee (2016: 369.58 tCO2e per employee).
- Innovative waste management campaigns launched at both operations.
Both of our mining operations operate in severe weather conditions, including extremes of temperature and precipitation, and may be exposed to extreme natural events such blizzards at Letšeng and earthquakes at Ghaghoo. We need to plan and adapt our operations to remain resilient under these circumstances, and to ensure that the effects of extreme weather or natural events do not pose unnecessary risks to our people or to the environment.
We have implemented a number of protocols to prepare for extreme weather conditions and earthquakes. Reactionary measures are important and are regularly assessed given the unpredictability of the environment.
In addition to these challenges, we take into account the potential risks that climate change could pose to our operations. Impacts include flooding or inadequate water supplies, which could disturb mining, transport to and from our operations, as well as our rehabilitation efforts. Fluctuations in temperature associated with climate change could have severe repercussions in operating conditions that already vacillate between extremes. Climate risks could also impact food security, water scarcity and the prevalence of disease, which would affect our employees and our relationships with the communities in which we operate.
At Letšeng, through our business-continuity plan, we have installed generators to assist during energy interruptions and keep a two-week supply of diesel for the generators on the mine. We also ensure that a two-week supply of food is kept on hand at all times. Our medical teams have been equipped to deal with extreme weather conditions. At Letšeng, in particular, the medical team has had extensive training in high-altitude rescues and providing medical treatment under extreme conditions.
Our water management systems at both mines also cater for excess or too little water due to extreme weather conditions. Our dam and storage facilities are managed in such a way that there is enough capacity to handle a sudden influx of water without compromising the safety of the structures. We have also instituted water-saving campaigns at both mines to preserve water to ensure that water is treated as a precious resource at all times, not only during times of drought.
In 2017, our operation at Ghaghoo was affected by a large earthquake with an epicentre 25 km from the mine. The earthquake caused flooding in the mine, which was successfully drained. No injuries and no persistent infrastructure damage were recorded as a result of the earthquake. Earthquakes occur very rarely in the area.
Current global energy usage trends, particularly the use of environmentally inefficient fossil fuels, are not sustainable. At Gem Diamonds, monitoring and managing our energy usage is a priority.
Understanding our consumption patterns enables us to identify opportunities to exercise energy-efficient initiatives. We believe that by continually searching for opportunities to reduce our consumption in new and innovative ways, we are protecting our long-term viability. To this end we have appointed a dedicated energy manager in 2017.
Letšeng is currently developing an ISO 50001 Energy Management System. ISO 50001 provides organisations with a structured framework to manage energy.
At Ghaghoo, energy usage has been minimised while the operation is on care and maintenance. Two generators remain in use for essential services and refrigeration
- 1 140 784 gigajoules (GJ) total energy consumed (2016:1 397 540 GJ).
- Group-wide energy intensity was recorded as 9.51 GJ per carat in 2017 (2016: 9.3 GJ).
- Letšeng saw a 12% decrease in total energy consumption. The operation reported a minor 2% increase in grid-supplied electricity consumption.
- During 2017 the Group recorded a decrease in energy consumption of 18% due to a reduction in diesel and petrol usage at Letšeng and Ghaghoo being placed on care and maintenance.
Mining is a temporary activity, with the life of a mine lasting anywhere between a few years to a few decades. During the time that a mine is in operation, however, it results in environmental impacts that should be remediated to demonstrate responsible stewardship of natural resources. This remediation is a costly undertaking, and once a mine is no longer generating income, it is difficult, if not impossible, to raise the capital required to carry out this activity.
Planning for mine closure therefore needs to take place from the inception of mining activities. It is an essential part of mining responsibly and in most cases is required by law. At Gem Diamonds, we pursue best practice in mine-closure planning, going far beyond what is required of us by host-country legislation, as we believe that this forms part of our responsibility to our host countries and to the communities that live in proximity to our mines.
Our operations have integrated rehabilitation plans in place to ensure that we meet our closure objectives as efficiently as possible. With these plans, we can better manage the environmental impact of our operations, as well as identify more cost-effective and environmentally friendly rehabilitation strategies. Plans are refined on an annual basis, and in 2017 we made further progress in integrating progressive rehabilitation programmes into the Letšeng mine plan.
Every year we quantify the rehabilitation and restoration costs should there be a sudden and unforeseen closure of a mine. Adequate financial provision for this is recognised in the Group’s statement of financial position. In addition, concurrent rehabilitation is pursued at Letšeng to ensure that environmental damage is continuously mitigated.
At Letšeng, a series of trials to examine different rehabilitation applications began in 2012. The mine, which is located in the extreme highlands of Lesotho and experiences extreme weather conditions, faces a unique challenge in that guidance on successful rehabilitation is scarce. The trials are therefore necessary to test the closure criteria, which form the basis of the quantification of the mine’s rehabilitation and closure costs. The trials have been selected to replicate the rehabilitation of the mine’s main waste residue disposal facilities, that is fine tailings (slimes), coarse tailings and waste rock.
The trials utilised waste rock and tailing reserves, allowing for minimal topsoil requirements. The trial also included studies on vegetation rehabilitation and restoration of natural ecosystems. Vegetation restoration studies were conducted within the mining lease area with the aim of researching veld-rehabilitation options.
While Ghaghoo is on care and maintenance its rehabilitation plans continue to be updated, and operational staff continue to investigate restorative initiatives with the aim of reducing the end-of-life-of-mine liability.
- US$17.3 million environmental rehabilitation provision (2016: US$16.6 million).
- In 2017, 6 174 ha of land were under our management (2016: 6 174 ha). Of this, 12.45 ha were newly disturbed by mining operations that occurred during the year, bringing total disturbed land to 577.45 ha.
- Rehabilitation plans updated at both mines, and rehabilitation and revegetation trials at Letšeng are proving successful.