Balancing Conservation and Mining: Environmental Considerations in Resource-Rich Areas

With strong governance and development based on sustainable principles, biodiversity protection and ecosystem services can coexist. However, this requires the establishment of clear responsibilities and accountabilities among government agencies, mining companies and communities.

Our interviews suggest that low input smallholder farming systems displaced by surface mining are likely to be re-established in adjacent forest areas (e.g. around Twiya in the Bogoso-Prestea concession). This has important spillover impacts.

Environmental Impact Assessments

EIAs are designed to identify, predict and evaluate the environmental impacts of proposed projects or activities (Terri, 2018). These impacts may be direct or indirect and may affect human health and well-being, biodiversity and natural resources. The process of an EIA helps to minimise, mitigate and compensate for adverse effects. EIAs should be a key tool in the greening of infrastructure.

The EPA assesses development applications that are referred to it by the relevant local council or State government agency. When assessing planning matters, the EPA has regard to, and seeks to further, the objects of the Environment Protection Act 1993 which promote ecologically sustainable development. The EPA also has regard to the statutory environmental duties in the Act and to relevant environmental policies including South Australia’s Waste Strategy.

When a project has the potential to impact a Matter of National Environmental Significance, the EIA process may be complemented by an SEA. An SEA provides a more integrated and holistic assessment of the impacts, considering a wider range of factors, such as climate change and social equity.

SEAs are not mandatory in South Africa, but they can be included as an input into the development process through sustainable planning frameworks and legislation. SEAs can help to identify and evaluate green alternatives, design and technologies, as well as assess sustainable resource-use options. However, it is important to note that the current EIA and SEA processes in South Africa are limited and do not necessarily take into account the broader greening aspects of infrastructure.

To address this, the EPA has developed a Greening of Infrastructure Toolkit to assist stakeholders with incorporating greening principles into their EIA and SEA processes. The toolkit includes guidelines, templates and a checklist. It also describes a series of greening principles and identifies a set of indicators that should be considered when evaluating EIAs for sustainability. It also outlines a method for assessing the environmental impact of infrastructure proposals, including a ‘green rating’. This approach is particularly pertinent in the light of the upcoming implementation of a new national spatial development plan.

Land Use Planning

Land use planning is the process of creating a blueprint for the way in which a specific piece of land will be used. This helps ensure that the land is used efficiently and does not interfere with the surrounding ecosystem. The process of land-use planning can be a lengthy one, but it is important for the success of any project. Using a land-use planning firm can help speed up the process and ensure that any problems are caught and addressed quickly.

Many countries are racing to develop energy transition technology, and this can lead to conflict over where to put these projects. It also puts pressure on mining companies to cut backroom deals and fast-track extraction, which has been shown to damage governance in the long run. These issues can be overcome by following a few key principles when developing any mining project.

The local land-use planning process should begin at the town or village level and then connect to the larger area. This will allow the community to feel involved throughout the process, and this can be crucial for ensuring that the project is a success. In addition, the local government will be able to provide oversight and support for the project.

Land-use planning is a crucial part of balancing conservation and mining, but it can be difficult to implement effectively. This is because most mining projects are very large and require a lot of resources. This can lead to environmental and social impacts that are difficult to deal with, and it is important for the mining industry to have a plan in place to minimize these risks. Fortunately, there are several ways that this can be accomplished. For example, the use of a land-use planning firm can help to ensure that the environment is protected while still supporting the economic needs of the region. Moreover, it can help reduce the risk of future environmental and social conflicts by allowing for the development of more sustainable infrastructure. Furthermore, it can also help to create a plan for how the mining area will be restored once the project is complete.

Social Impact Assessments

Social Impact Assessments (SIA) are an integral part of the environmental impact assessment process. They identify, analyse and assess the potential impacts of a project or policy on people and communities. These include the effects that may be negative or positive. The SIA is a process that involves all parties and stakeholders in the project or policy making and implementation. It includes all stages of the lifecycle of a project, from planning to monitoring. It aims to reduce the risks of adverse social impacts, maximise benefits and address any trade-offs and conflict.

SIAs have become a key component of development projects and policies due to increasing pressure from the public and investors for a more sustainable approach to resource management. They provide an opportunity to examine the wider implications of a project, including a focus on human rights and equity, environmental issues, community engagement and participatory processes. They also aim to provide a platform for discussion and debate on the project or policy in question, ensuring that a broad range of opinions are considered.

In a broader sense, SIA practitioners uphold a professional value system that is centred on a commitment to sustainability, scientific integrity, openness and accountability, fairness, transparency and the defence of human rights. SIAs go beyond impact prediction and determine ‘winners’ and ‘losers’; they are also about empowering local communities, improving the position of women, minority groups and marginalised individuals, building capacity, reducing dependency, promoting diversity and targeting poverty reduction.

A SIA is carried out through an extensive, structured socioeconomic survey that collects information from a wide range of sources. The results are compiled into a report for consideration by the coordinator-general of a proposed project. The SIA report is to be included in the environmental impact statement for that project.

A key finding from our SIA in the Wassa West District is that surface mining in the area has led to substantial losses of farmland and related livelihood impacts for local people, especially women. This is exacerbated by the lack of support for rural communities in their attempts to diversify their livelihoods, particularly with regard to micro-financing schemes.

Environmental Management Plans

As the demand for energy and resources intensifies, rural regions must balance economic development with environmental protection. Without careful planning, human activities can degrade ecosystem sustainability and cause a range of problems including resource degradation, loss of biodiversity, land degradation, poverty, and health risks [1, 2].

Sustainable development requires the development of strategies that are environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. The sustainable environmental management of rural areas is a complex process. The key issues include environmental pollution, land degradation, biodiversity loss, and resource depletion. These problems can be addressed by implementing sustainable land use planning and balancing conservation and mining activities. The environmental impact assessments required by the EP&A Act are an important part of this process. However, to achieve sustainable development in rural areas, there needs to be an integrated approach encompassing planning, monitoring and enforcement.

One of the most effective ways to protect the environment is through the establishment of regional environmental management plans (REMPs). These are a set of measures that govern mining activities on the seabed, and protect the marine environment during any mining operations. REMPs should include networks of no-mining zones that are based on the size and location of habitats, species, and ecological processes. They should also include measures to predict and manage cumulative impacts of multiple mining operations in the same region.

REMPs should also include region-specific protections, such as temporal restrictions on mining in key breeding or migratory seasons. They should also offer connectivity for populations by protecting sites large enough to retain viable numbers and support essential ecological functions, while being close enough for dispersing individuals to travel between them.

Finally, REMPs should require all mining licence holders to develop a Water Allocation Plan (WAP) for each of the waters they occupy. This is a legal document that sets out the rules for taking and using prescribed water, which are designed to ensure security of supply for all users.

All coal seam gas and large coal mining developments in South Australia are required to develop a WAP, as they are a significant contributor to the state’s water resources. The WAP should be approved by the IESC to ensure that it is able to effectively manage the impact of mining on water resources. In addition, the IESC is required to provide advice on the water requirements of all proposals for coal seam gas and large coal mining that have a significant impact on water resources in line with the information guidelines of the Landscapes Act 2019.