Home » Study Forecasts Closure of 48 South African Mines Within a Decade

Study Forecasts Closure of 48 South African Mines Within a Decade

Research by UCT's Dr. Megan Cole highlights pressing environmental and social risks, calls for government intervention.

by Adenike Adeodun

A groundbreaking study by Dr Megan Cole of the University of Cape Town’s Future Water Institute has revealed a concerning forecast for South Africa’s mining industry: up to 48 of the nation’s 230 operational mines are at risk of closure within the next decade. This alarming prediction underscores the environmental and social challenges facing vulnerable communities, particularly in the rural areas of Limpopo and North West provinces. Dr Cole’s research emphasizes the urgent need for a coordinated response from both national and provincial governments to mitigate the impacts of these closures on poverty levels and economic growth.

The study, published in the International Journal of Mining, points out the highest environmental risks are concentrated in regions critical for coal and gold mining. These areas coincide with the country’s most fertile land, highlighting the critical importance of effective rehabilitation strategies in the mine closure process to foster post-closure land use and promote economic diversification.

With the majority of the threatened mines located in Mpumalanga’s dwindling coal reserves and the deep-level gold mines of the Free State and Gauteng, the research calls attention to the pressing need to balance South Africa’s economic reliance on mining with the imperatives of environmental conservation and social responsibility.

According to a report by Mining Weekly, Dr Cole’s work not only quantifies the risks associated with mine closures across South Africa but also introduces a comprehensive risk rating system. This tool is designed to inform decision-making processes by mapping out potential closures and identifying where social and environmental risks are most acute. It aims to facilitate better planning and prioritization by government departments, mining companies, and communities affected by mine closures.

As South Africa confronts the dual challenges of transitioning towards sustainable energy sources and ensuring the long-term viability of its mining sector, Dr Cole’s research offers vital insights. By fostering dialogue among a broad range of stakeholders and promoting evidence-based decision-making, this study contributes to the ongoing public consultation on the draft National Mine Closure Strategy. It also sets a precedent for other mining nations to assess and manage the risks associated with mine closures, marking a significant step forward in the global discourse on sustainable mining practices.

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