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Agricultural pilot highlights the strength of cross-sector partnerships in the mine closure process

Meg Kauthen Business for Development
ยท 500 words, 2 min read

The South African Mpumalanga Winter Wheat Pilot is investigating sustainable livelihood opportunities for the community on remediated mine sites.

The Mpumalanga Winter Wheat Pilot (the Pilot), launched in April this year, provides an example of how different industry stakeholders can work together to achieve common ESG outcomes. It aims to show how remediated mine land and water can provide economic opportunities for households and the broader community once a mine is closed.

The Pilot is trialling a variety of winter wheat at two sites including a rehabilitated mine site at the Umsimbithi owned Wonderfontein mine and on nearby community land. Successful implementation will mean improved food diversity and security, added farm-based employment, and over time the possible introduction of new skills behind crop processing.

Thato Gama, General Manager at Wonderfontein mine, said that mine closure has evolved from an ecocentric viewpoint to a holistic approach which integrates environmental, social and economic factors. 

'This project will offer us invaluable insights in terms of alternative post-closure land uses...this can sustain the livelihoods and wellbeing of our communities well beyond mine closure.'

Thato Gama, General Manager, Wonderfontein mine

The Pilot is being executed by Melbourne-headquartered Business for Development in partnership with Glencore, Umsimbithi, ICMM Impact Catalyst and the MWCB.

The Pilot runs from April 2021 to January 2022. The program is set to scale and support more than 14,300 smallholder farming families, which supports 57,000 people residing in the Mpumalanga province, a region providing more than 80 per cent of South Africa’s coal resources.


A key strength of the Pilot is the combination of each partner’s skills and insights – MWCB’s knowledge of the regions water and land constraints; ICMM’s mine closure knowledge; Business for Developments on-the-ground experience in developing successful agriculture programs linked to market; Glencore’s commitment to sustainably transitioning their mine sites; and Impact Catalyst’s knowledge of South Africa’s regulations and government requirements – enabling the team to develop a realistic strategy to transition the region both environmentally and economically.

'Through careful planning and collaboration of key stakeholders, mine closure can also bring new opportunities for leaving behind a positive social and environmental legacy.'

Dawn Brock, Manager – Closure Lead, ICMM

On completion in December, key operational learnings will be shared with the South African Government on how Mpumalanga can transition from mining (which accounts for 29.8 per cent of provincial GDP) – through the creation of new jobs, skills, investments and a more equal, resilient local economy.

Following this, Business for Development will look at developing the required systems, including expanded distribution and markets for the wheat, to replicate the program on other sites.

'A just transition – one that ensures environmental rehabilitation, along with the creation of new industries affording decent work and social inclusion – is now the clear expectation of governments, funders and other key stakeholders.'

Karen James, CEO, Business for Development

More information on the project can be found on the Business for Development website.

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