Annually in February for the past 25 years the global mining community convenes in Cape Town, South Africa for the Investing in Africa Mining Indaba. For four days the Cape Town Convention Centre is buzzing with different mining discussions ranging from investment, mining policy and mineral exploration to mineral exploitation, particularly within the African continent. The usual attendees are mining companies, exploration companies, banks, statesmen and the country’s mineral resources regulator, the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). The presence of the DMR is significant because it sets the investment tone and provides policy direction to different mining industry players.
Discussions that usually take centre stage are naturally the South Africa’s mineral resources policy, exploration, technology, investment and sustainability. In recent years at the mining indaba the issues of sustainability have increasingly shifted from the periphery and entered into core discussions particularly on water and energy.
This year was no different, similar discussions of interest to the global mining community dominated. Naturally, Interesting to me were discussions on sustainable mining and mine closures. Though included in the sustainability sessions, mine closure discussions were limited, in the periphery and not afforded the same centre stage as other phases in the Life of Mine (LoM).
At the Southern Coal Conference, a week prior to the mining indaba, discussions that took centre stage were policy, investment, markets and clean coal technologies, again no significant discussions about mine closures were on the agenda.
It is without doubt that South Africa will experience mine closures on a large scale in the Mpumalanga coalfields, either as a result of depletion of viable mineral reserves at the end of LoM, mines placed under ‘care and maintenance’
(as seen in the case of Optimum Coal Mine)or favouring an energy mix that is less reliant on coal responding to the effects of climate change.
The exploitation of mineral resources is a temporary activity and therefore mine closures are inevitable.