Mitigation and rehabilitation

Ideas generated around Event: GCRF Mine Dust and Health Workshop

The initial remark is that rehabilitation is in fact part of mitigation, and innovation should also be included in the themes title, as it is interlinked and crucial to mitigation.


Firstly, the problem must be understood and identified, namely what are the impacts and who is affected? What are the direct and indirect effects concerning radioactivity, heavy metals, chemical toxins, cyanide, and biological contamination (i.e. invasive species).


Next, the source of the impacts need to be identified – specifically in terms of the location, quantification and characterisation of the dust.


Then short and long term goals of the implementation of mitigation measures must be set, which should include realistic time frames. For solutions and routes, relevant and available technology needs to be identified and its practicality assessed against the relevant legislative frameworks.
In order to gain the necessary facts available data and research needs to be surveyed. Of importance are facts such as what policies are in place, what are others doing (what can we learn from what others have done), and what are the legal and financial barriers to moving forward.

Is there even the will to fix the problem? This question that was raised by the group speaks to the corruption that is present in the mining industry and the short cuts that are constantly taken. This corruption and the lack of enforcement of legislation needs to be mitigated against. There needs to be collective buy-in with a shift-away from a victim or an us-vs-them mentality. People need to realise that no-one is going to solve this problem, only collectively can we solve this problem. There is a currently a lack of innovation and creative thinking, as the industry are currently very much compliance focussed, characterised by rules and regulations.
There is conflict between legislations and the value chain (opportunities that exist for people to derive benefit from the waste). Concerning ownership, we need to create a set of common value sets before we can come up with solutions.
The ultimate benefit is a pollution free environment. The South African mining industry has achieved developments, such as the abolishment of the hostels and the progression towards more advanced labour systems. These positive developments show that the industry does have the capabilities to find solutions to dust management. Furthermore, the public are becoming increasingly aware of the concepts of pollution and dust, and this dust workshop is an example of the progress that is being made. Finally, the legislation is in place and the technology is available.

There needs to be much more advertising of what has been achieved already. An example of this is communicate pollution free shifts, as is done with injury free shifts. There also needs to be multi-stakeholder engagement on a continuous basis (once-off engagements are not sufficient nor genuine). The threats must be turned into opportunities, i.e mine waste must be repurposed instead of sitting there and polluting. This requires aspects such as circular economy. The fundamentals also need to shift, and this starts with the co-design and co-ownership of mines. This requires a completely new business model for mining and beneficiation.

The knowledge, technology and legislation exists, what is absent is the enforcement and the political will, while rampant corruption is present and no communal buy-in. What we really need is a new social contract in which everybody buys into the realization and the process.

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