De Beers’ business is based on mining nature’s treasures. With this comes an important responsibility to limit our impact on the natural environment. Conservation and biodiversity are central.
Following our signing of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity Business and Biodiversity Pledge in December 2016, we were the first mining company to commit itself in this way to taking positive action in support of biodiversity.
In 2009, we established a commitment to achieve ‘no net loss of significant biodiversity’. Our approach is first to avoid areas of significant biodiversity, then to do all we can to minimise biodiversity impacts from our operations, and finally to rehabilitate fully any affected areas.
Our commitment is exemplified by the Diamond Route – our biodiversity and conservation programme, which links seven rich and diverse sites covering 145,000 hectares across southern Africa.
The land in the Diamond Route plus additional conservation land cover 164,000 hectares, an area five times the size of that disturbed by our mining activities. The area is home to several endangered species, for whose welfare we take responsibility.
All our operations have environmental management plans in place, which include biodiversity criteria and actions.
We use our Biodiversity Value Assessment (BVA) methodology, developed by De Beers with contributions from external experts, to understand the biodiversity significance of natural habitats affected by our operations. We have completed BVAs at all our existing and new mining operations.
We have identified two mines with significant local biodiversity: Voorspoed in South Africa’s sensitive grassland biome and Sendelingsdrif in Namibia’s Succulent Karoo Biome. Both areas receive special attention, particularly with regard to operational and rehabilitation planning.
We respect legally designated Protected Areas and areas with significant biodiversity, and do not operate within World Heritage Site Core Areas. Our annual Biodiversity Overlay Assessment checks whether our operations overlap with areas of high biodiversity value.
In 2012, we discovered that the licence area for our Venetia mine in South Africa had been included in a newly assigned buffer zone (2009) for the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape in the Limpopo Province, which was proclaimed as a World Heritage Site in 2003. Following consultation with the government, a revised buffer zone excluding the Venetia mine area was proposed. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee accepted the change in June 2014 and the adjustment now requires legal change to come into effect.
In addition, we know that some exploration licences overlap with portions of known International Union for Conservation of Nature Category I-IV Protected Areas in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, and no exploration activities are conducted in these overlap areas.
Monitoring marine biodiversity
Within our marine mining operations, active rehabilitation of biodiversity affected by our operations is not possible. Instead, we use marine biodiversity monitoring to understand the impacts of our marine activities and natural recovery over time, once mining has finished.
We have established two marine scientific advisory committees (MSAC), one for offshore mining and one for coastal and mid-water mining, to provide scientific review and advice on the environmental impact of marine mining and our monitoring programme to review the rate of seabed recovery.
Both committees consist of independent experts and De Beers’ employees. The Debmarine Namibia MSAC (offshore) met three times in 2016 and the Namdeb MSAC (coastal and mid-water) met twice.
Rehabilitation status of closed operations across De Beers 2016
The Oaks, Limpopo Province
The Oaks open-pit mine ceased production in 2008. Active restoration has been concluded, and a project to review open-pit closure criteria globally was conducted to inform The Oaks’ final closure arrangements. Water quality sampling continues.
Namaqualand, Northern Cape Province
The sale of Namaqualand Mines was completed in 2014. DBCM retained the rehabilitation liabilities in the Buffels Marine Right with altered land of 3,652 ha. Rehabilitation of the area, disturbed by many decades of mining, has been ongoing. This area lies in the Succulent Karoo Biome so restoration of biodiversity is important. All land reclamation and profiling work was finished in 2015 with around 35 million cubic metres of earth reclaimed over a period of eight years. Various areas across the landscape have been subject to active ecological intervention in the form of netting, seeding and transplanting, and these are being monitored. During 2016, work continued on a number of general clean-up projects and the accurate assessment of the remaining infrastructure demolition requirements. Negotiations are in progress to appoint a demolition contractor to begin work in the first quarter of 2017.
Kimberley exploration, Northern Cape Province
As part of the decommissioning of the Exploration Geology Pit in Kimberley, which ceased operations in 2005, water monitoring and vegetation assessments continue according to the comprehensive five-year closure plan, which is in line with legal requirements. The backfill of the pit using the Gemdene dump shale material was successful and vegetation self-established, so no artificial seeding is needed. A second round of alien invader plants removal was completed as per the closure plan.
Kimberley Mines, Northern Cape Province
Kimberley Mines was sold to Ekapa Minerals, an investor consortium comprising Ekapa Mining and Petra Diamonds Limited, and operations were taken over in January 2016.
|As part of the comprehensive Namdeb Legacy Rehabilitation Project, the status is as follows:
Exploration – Lobatse Sample Treatment Centre
In terms of the closure process, the rehabilitation and monitoring programme, including public review and stakeholder engagement processes, has been completed in full compliance with the government approved Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment. Finalisation is subject to a site visit by the Department of Environmental Affairs, scheduled for 2017.
The Morupule coal mine was sold in August 2016 to the Government of the Republic of Botswana.