Minerals Council seeks to reconcile members around single climate change approach

THE Minerals Council South Africa has published its position paper on climate change that reconciles apparently irreconciliable positions among its members, who are both coal miners and non-coal miners. Its goal is to ensure that member companies that are lagging on their climate change strategies can learn from the leaders in the sector.

The council’s membership represents about 90% of the minerals mined in South Africa.

Nikisi Lesufi, the council’s senior executive: environment, health and legacy, said some members see climate change as a threat, and others as an opportunity.

The council’s overarching position is that coal mining is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, but it will taper as renewable energy uptake increases. Energy security is a priority for mining companies.

The industry has shown commitment to making the transition to a low-carbon economy with most of the 6,000 MW of renewable energy projects in the pipeline coming from the mining industry, he said. This is partly to ensure energy security, but also because it represents a business opportunity.

Stephinah Mudau, head of environment for the council, said the position statement was reached after wide consultation. The paper is wide in scope, but at it’s heart it is calling for urgent action. Structurally, it ask for partnerships as well as incentives if the private sector is to decarbonise. Beneficiaries include communities.

Even before this paper was published, most council members had made progress in decarbonising by implementing measures such as greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation, energy efficiency, and self-generation through renewable sources and fuel switching.

The council’s board has adopted some individual member commitments. These include developing a response that will see scope 1 and 2 emissions reductions over the next five to 15 years and to net zero by 2050. Miners will also co-operate with business and supply chain partners to reduce scope 3 emissions in their value chains.

Other commitments include a requirement to continuously improve reporting and disclosure of emissions and to contribute to ‘Just Energy Transition by making a positive contribution to the socio-economic development of impacted communities. This should be part of the Social and Labour Plans, not a standalone initiative, the council said.

Even before the Just Energy Transition became a common principle, the Minerals Council adopted the view that mining rehabilitation needs to be more than “closing up the hole”. It needs to extend to economic succession planning. The industry has some pilot projects that take mining assets no longer in use and apply them to future economic development such as using acid mine drainage for crop irrigation, or tyre recycling.

Beyond the position statement, the council has developed a framework guideline to help its members to develop their own plans, strategies, and response measures.