Mining and Biodiversity Guideline
The Mining and Biodiversity Guideline, 2013 (the Guideline) was developed by the Department of Mineral Resources, Department of Mineral Resources, Chamber of Mines, South African National Biodiversity Institute and the South African Mining and Biodiversity Forum, with the intention to find a balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability (i.e. in the name of sustainable development). The Guideline is envisioned as a tool to “foster a strong relationship between biodiversity and mining which will eventually translate into best practice within the mining sector.” In identifying biodiversity priority areas which have different levels of risk against mining, the Guideline categorises biodiversity priority areas into 4 classes with the following levels of risk for mining attached to them:
- Legally protected areas, where mining is prohibited
- Ares of highest biodiversity importance, which are at the highest risk for mining
- Areas of high biodiversity importance, which are at a high risk for mining
- Areas of moderate biodiversity importance, which are at a moderate risk for mining
There are many opportunities (both direct and indirect) for the protection of water source areas falling in the different categories, which the mining sector (through the Guideline) has already made a commitment to give due consideration to and protect for purposes of sustainable development. Of direct importance is the consideration that mining companies must give towards high water yield areas (which are included under areas of high biodiversity importance) as to whether or not minerals could be extracted from deposits outside of these biodiversity priority areas. Although water source areas are not directly referred to in this regard, it is important to note that water source areas were mapped on the basis of high water yield areas and thus, in most instances there will be great overlapping between high water yield areas and water source areas. Therefore the commitment towards high water yield areas is, in essence, a commitment towards water source areas . This commitment, although not a direct prohibition, indicates that mining in water source areas should not be the first option. If at all, it should be the last option where the mineral cannot be extracted from an area outside the water source area.