South Africa region
|Gold produced (000oz)||1,624|
|% contribution to global production||37.4|
|No of employees||32,082|
|Productivity per employee (oz/TEC)||5.85|
Large-scale mining has taken place in the Witwatersrand Basin for over a century resulting in a number of legacy issues which require close and ongoing collaboration with government, organised labour, communities and NGOs. AngloGold Ashanti participates actively in such engagements through monthly meetings with senior officials of the local municipalities, quarterly meetings with the Mayoral Committees of the municipalities, and bi-monthly Mining Forum meetings with relevant municipalities such as the West Rand and Dr Kenneth Kaunda districts.
Although its production profile is declining, the South Africa region contributed 37% of AngloGold Ashanti’s production in 2011 and employed 52% of its workforce. In contrast with other regions, mining operations in South Africa are almost entirely deep-level mines.
In 2011, priority areas of work in sustainability in the region included:
- Improving safety and health performance. The South Africa region regrettably experienced nine fatalities in 2011 and continues to manage potential health impacts in the areas of occupational lung disease (primarily silicosis and occupational tuberculosis), noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) and HIV/AIDS. Continued action and engagement in this area is a priority, including the ongoing implementation of the group’s safety transformation programme and the various health initiatives described later in this report under safety and health.
- Further development of a technology and innovation strategy, which has the potential to introduce a step change in the economic, safety, health and environmental performance of the South African operations.
- Development and implementation of a socio-economic development strategy, which seeks to address impacts arising as a result of the transition from a highly labour-intensive industry to a technology-intensive model.
The strategy will foster key partnerships from a host of government and industry participants to provide a meaningful social impact on the community in which we operate and push the boundaries of sustainable and agreed upon economic growth initiatives to address poverty, unemployment and other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as encapsulated in the Social and Labour Plans (SLPs) and the socio-economic development framework.
An amount of over $40m has been budgeted for the period 2012 to 2014 for investment in:
- local economic development;
- enterprise development; and
- social and institutional development, including in laboursending areas as well as host communities.
An integrated and comprehensive engagement strategy is a priority area for development in 2012. The strategy will be aligned with stakeholder engagement processes and strategies in place in the business, including the group-wide engagement standard.
The South Africa country focus gives additional detail on the technology and innovation strategy and the interlinked issue of the development of a socio-economic development strategy.
A further priority for the region is the implementation of an integrated environmental strategy, addressing the following key risks:
- The potential for discharge of polluted water into the environment, either directly or indirectly as a result of seepage from tailings facilities and polluted water.
- Polluted land beyond current mining boundaries as a result of discharges.
- Air pollution and land contamination as a result of windblown dust from tailings storage facilities.
“The holistic approach adopted by AngloGold Ashanti to address this longstanding problem is applauded as it indicates a commitment to resolve it and keep it under control permanently. This is an environmental wellness management process not just a dust management event.”
Ms Nontsha Liwane-Mazengwe
Principal at the Vaal Reefs Technical High School, following AngloGold Ashanti’s response to complaints from the school regarding dust originating from our West Extension Tailings Storage Facility in the Vaal River area. The response entailed the accelerated implementation of dust mitigation measures on the dam, coupled with an ongoing engagement with the school and other relevant stakeholders from the local community.
Initiatives undertaken in the region in 2011 included:
- The development of an integrated water management strategy which addresses issues such as potential mine flooding, groundwater and storm water management, as well as the potential impact of mining activities on water supply to neighbouring areas.
- Development of regional mine flooding models, mitigation plans and technical remediation options for seepage from tailings storage facilities.
- Pilot work on the inclusion of water performance monitoring and reporting within the company’s technical operating system.
- Commissioning of a new pollution control dam (the North Boundary Dam in the West Wits area) to significantly reduce the potential for impacts on the local river system.
- The development of a best practice guideline on the mitigation of dust from tailings storage facilities, including the initiation of a detailed five-year implementation plan.
The region established aggressive top-down water consumption reduction targets in 2011 and was able to record a 10% year-on-year saving in potable water usage. South Africa accounts for approximately 33% of AngloGold Ashanti’s total water consumption.
Groundwater issues in South Africa
Deep groundwater contamination is a significant issue in South Africa, where groundwater in some older mining regions has infiltrated mined-out workings. It becomes acidic if exposed to sulphide minerals in these workings, presenting a potential contamination risk to shallow groundwater and eventually surface water resources if allowed to spread further.
Contamination is prevented by pumping water from underground operations that have ceased working. However the cost of pumping is significant and there is a risk that it will be carried by an increasingly smaller number of operators as mines in an area close. The solution to this issue cannot lie with one company and needs to be addressed holistically by government, regulators, the mining industry and communities. We are therefore proactively engaged with these parties in seeking a solution. We are in discussions with a water supply company to explore the option of using treated pumped water to meet the needs of communities around operations and create potential business opportunities. A feasibility study is currently underway.