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Whilst mining will remain an important sector in our economy, existing practices impact negatively on both the environment and communities. In addition, these practices fail to support a just transition in a larger context of escalating demand for new metals, increased automation and other technology innovation, and decreasing demand for coal.

What is the issue?

Mine closure and rehabilitation remains a challenge in South Africa. While new mining licences continue to be issued every year, old and ownerless abandoned mines continue to pose a threat to communities and the environment. When mining operations cease, communities are often left stranded without alternative forms of income in environments where water and soil quality are severely compromised.

While South Africa has legislation on mine closure and rehabilitation, there is a disconnect between policies, implementation and the reality on the ground. In addition, rigid legislation makes it difficult to implement new and innovative approaches that have the potential to both address the environmental impacts of mining and the need to stimulate new economic activity that can support jobs and livelihoods.

What are we doing?

Working collaboratively, WWF seeks to inform policy and praxis in the sector to support a transition that will lead to outcomes which are both equitable and environmentally secure.

How do we do this?

We work with partners to strengthen community voices and praxis to support rehabilitation approaches that address both environmental degradation and the need for alternative livelihoods. We advocate for policy change that unlocks the potential of mine rehabilitation to act as a catalyst for job creation and livelihood opportunities.

Together with practitioners, researchers and think tanks, we provide an interface between mining companies and local communities, engaging to develop collaborative approaches to address post-mining impacts, new approaches to post-mining rehabilitation, social and labour plans. We conduct and commission research exploring and influencing the future trajectory of mining

How did it start?

WWF has engaged with the mining sector since 2010, focussing initially on environmental concerns through research relating to the impacts of mining activities on important water source areas and the lack of compliance with key biodiversity principles. We then directed our focus to the inadequacy of existing legislation, in particular the challenges in respect of the financial provisions for mine closure and subsequent  rehabilitation.

Acknowledging both the transition that is happening in the sector relating to the demand for new rare metals and the need for South Africa to transition away from coal, our work has become more futures orientated and seek to firstly understand the impact of these trends, and secondly, the role of policy and praxis to ensure that these transitions benefit mining communities.

What are the big wins?
  1. Our research has improved awareness of the impact of coal mining on our critical water catchment areas.
  2. We have created a collaboration platform of key stakeholders - academia, think tanks, industry bodies, practioners and civil society to develop a community of praxis addressing the challenges of mining rehabilitation