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Northam acknowledges that, as a PGM development, mining and processing company, its activities inevitably have an impact on the environment in which its operations are found. Conserving and optimising the use of resources including land, water, energy and fuel, are among Northam’s highest priorities and most significant challenges.

Northam has a health, safety and environmental committee in place, tasked with overseeing environmental matters at board level. Key environmental issues and parameters for both Zondereinde and Booysendal are formally reported on a monthly basis to the general manager and chief executive, and on a quarterly basis to the board’s SHE committee. The company’s chief executive assumes ultimate responsibility for environmental compliance and performance, together with the general managers of Zondereinde and Booysendal.

At Zondereinde, environmental issues form an integral part of the operation’s production process and are managed as such. The technical nature of many of the mine’s environmental issues and challenges means that this portfolio is overseen by the engineering department under the engineering manager. The engineering manager is supported by an environmental officer.

At Booysendal, environmental issues are the responsibility of the mine manager, who is supported by the operation’s environmental personnel. This applies to the mine’s designated mining area, which includes the Booysendal UG1 North mine which accounts for 7.7% of land under management. The balance of the land under management is the responsibility of a designated land manager, whose background and expertise is in conservation rather than mining.


Northam operates in compliance with South Africa’s rigorous environmental and mining legislation. The company’s environmental policy commits the company to responsible environmental management, and to the implementation of practices outlined in the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998). With regards to environmental management, Northam has adopted a precautionary approach, implicit within the regulations of NEMA and the company’s own environmental management systems (EMSs), which meet the necessary regulatory requirements and are in place at both Zondereinde and Booysendal.

Other legislation with which the company complies includes:

Northam’s approach to environmental management and compliance is also guided by the requirements of the DMR and the DWA. Consultation with these, as well as other regulatory authorities, is held on an on-going basis.

South Africa’s environmental legislation demands that all new mining projects undertake environmental impact assessments (EIAs), which include a high degree of public participation as well as numerous specialist studies. These studies assess all aspects of the environment including water and air quality, fauna, flora and archaeology.

Approved environmental management plans (EMPs) are also a requirement, and are in place at both Zondereinde and Booysendal. They serve as management tools to address impacts and potential impacts on the environment arising from the operations and to provide guidance as to how these impacts should be managed, monitored and mitigated. Northam regularly undertakes audits and assessments of compliance with regard to both its EIAs and its EMPs.

Both Zondereinde and Booysendal have new order mining rights and integrated water use licences (IWUL) in place.


The new Air Quality Control Act came into effect during F2013 and will have an impact on Northam’s emissions. The company intends to submit an application to the National Air Quality Advisory Committee for the postponement of compliance with the new emission requirements, as the construction of its new SO2 treatment plant may require more time than was originally allocated.

The National Waste Information Regulations, 2012 in Gazette No. R 625 were also implemented during the financial year. These regulations require that any entity conducting activities regarding the recovery, recycling, treatment, disposal and exportation of hazardous waste register with the South African Waste Information System (SAWIS). Both Zondereinde and Booysendal are registered with SAWIS. Northam did not receive any environmental fines or legal sanctions during the year under review.


Northam has adopted the ISO14001 standard as the basis for its EMSs. The Zondereinde mine has been ISO14001-certified since February 2011. During the year under review, an ISO14001 audit was conducted, with three minor findings requiring attention:

Northam has adopted the ISO14001 standard as the basis for its EMSs. The Zondereinde mine has been ISO14001-certified since February 2011. During the year under review, an ISO14001 audit was conducted, with three minor findings requiring attention:

Zondereinde is still in the process of implementing ISO14001 at the metallurgical complex. This requires specialised skills however, and a shortage of such skills has negatively impacted the process. Procedures are currently being developed to deal with this, with impact studies being undertaken in specific identified areas in the plant. Zondereinde’s target to obtain certification by 2014 is still in place.

A formal ISO14001-compliant EMS has not yet been put in place at Booysendal. It has, however, been budgeted for F2014 and a third party will be employed to assist with the development and implementation of ISO14001, as well as ISO9001 and OHSAS18001. Certification of these standards is scheduled for F2015.


Northam is in the process of licensing its salvage yard in terms of the NEMA: Waste Management Act.


Water and energy consumption continue to be the most pressing environmental management concerns at Zondereinde. Efforts to reduce consumption are continually assessed and implemented.

Zondereinde held a public participation meeting in May 2013 at which the following issues were raised regarding Zondereinde’s integrated EMP:

Only four minor environmental incidents were reported at Zondereinde during the year, none of which incurred any fines.


During F2013, several external audits where conducted at Booysendal:

The audits were submitted to the relevant regional departments concerned and no further comments have been received.

Two incidents were recorded at Booysendal during the year, one concerning the plant and mine pollution control dams and one involving the tailings dam.

In September 2012, owing to unexpected heavy rains over a short period of time, both the plant pollution control dam and the mine pollution control dam overflowed into tributaries of the Dwarsrivier. This incident was reported in full and in writing to the DWA. The issue was swiftly resolved and no further communication regarding this incident has been received from the department. Booysendal management continues to monitor the surrounding fresh water, and the pollution control dams are controlled in order to maintain a healthy free board margin.

In April 2013, a drainpipe malfunction on the storage tailings facility (TSF) resulted in a relatively small quantity of tailings being released into the upper reaches of a watercourse in the area.

The watercourse runs into the Der Brochen dam. Prompt and effective action quickly stemmed the flow and reduced the impact, and the DWA was immediately informed.

A number of interventions have been put into place to mitigate the impact and to avoid similar such events, including:

Booysendal has been informed that the DWA is satisfied with the immediate and long-term remedial and mitigation measures undertaken, and no fines were incurred as a result of this incident.


Northam’s primary resources include water, energy and bulk materials. Bulk materials include rock (both mined and processed), liquid fuels, coal, grease, steel, timber and lubricating and hydraulic oils. Zondereinde actively optimises its resource usage, and recycling programmes are in place for plastics, steel, timber and scrap.

      Zondereinde   Booysendal
  Unit F2013 F2012 F2011 F2013
Rock mined 000t 2 276 2 154 1 801 755
Ore milled 000t 2 116 1 934 1 591 261
Timber use (bulk support) m3 1 573 827 754
Cartridge explosives t 2 401 2 552 2 010
Oxygen t 1 561 2 018 2 461
Sulphuric acid t 520 769 747
Sulphur dioxide t 56 82 90
Grease t 47 47 41 1
Lubricating and hydraulics oils l 130 270 135 155 112 311 83 314
      Zondereinde   Booysendal
  Unit F2013 F2012 F2011 F2013
Plastic t 42 108 62
Steel t 1 640 2 053 759
Timber m3 2 380 4 601 5 874 396
Scrap metal m3 0 1 995 2 526 81
Rubber t 153 134 156


Water is an exceptionally scarce resource in South Africa, an issue which complicates the mining industry’s operations, which are necessarily waterintensive. Northam recognises its responsibility to reuse and recycle water in an effort to optimise its consumption from various sources. Water awareness campaigns are also conducted on an on-going basis. Northam sources its potable water from Magalies Water and the Lebalelo Water Users Association, with which it has a contract.

For the fourth consecutive year, Northam voluntarily took part in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Water Disclosure. The submission details the company’s risks and opportunities relating to water availability and can be downloaded at www.


Although Zondereinde was awarded its IWUL in 2011, there are several issues that require attention on an on-going basis. The mine has regular interaction with both the DWA and the DEA in this regard. Key issues include:

Water is fundamentally important for Zondereinde mine, not only from an environmental and permitting perspective, but also operationally. Through a shaft-based hydropower system, the mine uses water as its primary source of energy for its direct mining operations underground. These technical innovations were pioneered at Northam and refined over time. Hydropowered equipment has the advantage of reducing the temperatures in the working areas; this is enhanced by the strategic placing of backfill support. Backfill lowers the underground temperatures by reducing heat ingress from workedout areas, while also reducing the size of the area to be cooled by 65%.

Water management and water quality are therefore integral components of Zondereinde’s engineering management system, and the mine closely monitors any potential impact on its surface and groundwater sources. In addition, a comprehensive groundwater model has been in place for the past eight years. The model was developed and maintained by a third party consultant, who also monitors and advises on surface and groundwater quality control. Zondereinde strives to run a zero discharge operation. Water awareness campaigns and training sessions ensure that employees are made aware of the need to conserve water.

There were no significant events relating to Zondereinde’s water use during F2013.


Water allocation is also of critical importance at Booysendal, where the company continues to manage water use according to the requirements of the operation’s IWUL. Water quality at Booysendal is monitored on a continuous basis and the findings compared with the operation’s F2010 base line information.

Booysendal’s primary sources of water (both industrial and potable) are the Lebalelo Pipeline and the boreholes on site, though the latter are not currently being used. The mine’s membership of the Lebalelo Water Users Association enables it to receive water from the pipeline, and a licence to extract water from the boreholes for a 20-year period is in place. This licence is reviewed every five years from the date of issue. According to Booysendal’s IWUL application, the Groot Dwarsrivier is the only water source that could potentially be affected by the withdrawal of water from the boreholes. As limited water is currently being drawn from this source, no risk is posed to the river.

Booysendal strives to recover and recycle the water it uses in order to minimise the long-term effects of its water use on the surrounding environment. Water levels within the pollution control dams are monitored on a continuous basis to ensure that no discharge or runoff occurs. The only water bodies that could be affected by discharges from Booysendal are the Groot Dwarsrivier and the Der Brochen dam.

    Zondereinde   Booysendal
  F2013 F2012 F2011 F2013
Potable water from external sources 2 633 2 540 2 441 429
Fissure water used 1 492 1 273 2 392
Water recycled in process 25 909 24 390 24 308 237
% water recycled 91 91 91


Northam sources its electricity from South Africa’s national power utility, Eskom, which has been beset by a shortage in supply in recent years that has put pressure on demand and increased costs. Eskom increased power tariffs by 25.8% in April 2011, by 16% in April 2012, and by 8% in April 2013. In F2013, electricity costs amounted to R352 million (94.8% at Zondereinde and 5.2% at Booysendal), and the company therefore places a great deal of emphasis on its conservation.

To this end, the company has also embarked on a number of energy-saving projects, several of them in consultation with Eskom. This includes an initiative to shift the company’s electricity time of use in an effort to even out consumption on the national electricity grid. There is currently sufficient power available for Northam’s demand.

Northam is already at an advantage, however, as the extensive use of hydropower at Zondereinde means that the company uses less electricity per unit run of mine production than its peers who use compressed air to power underground equipment. The use of hydropowered equipment and backfill, as discussed in the water use section above, has effected annual power savings of 190 399MWh and 50 400MWh respectively. In addition, Zondereinde has implemented a number of energy efficiency initiatives resulting in a current saving of 41 494MWh of electricity which equates to a R20 million saving on electricity costs.

As Zondereinde mines deeper and further away from its shafts, and as production at Booysendal continues to be ramped up, the group’s energy consumption has steadily increased. Zondereinde is also smelting the concentrate that it receives from Booysendal which requires additional power. The group’s strategy in terms of energy consumption in the short to medium term is therefore focused on energy efficiency rather than on energy reduction.

Northam’s energy management strategy involves the regular review of all energy-intensive processes, with the aim of improving efficiencies, through the use of spot coolers and solar heaters. The company is also currently improving its electricity consumption monitoring system, which will be updated at a later stage to include the automated use of equipment. That said, the company has made the decision to place the planned 1MW solar plant on hold, as the current Eskom tariffs limit the benefits that Northam will be able to reap from this project.


Zondereinde’s energy-saving programmes during the year included:

In F2013, total indirect non-renewable energy consumption from electricity sourced from Eskom at Zondereinde decreased by 2% to 587 384MWh (F2012: 599 679MWh). Some 83% of this electricity was used by mining operations and 17% by processing and smelting activities. Zondereinde works closely with Eskom regarding its demand side management programme in an effort to reduce its energy requirements at the refrigeration plant and underground pumps during peak consumption periods. Power factor correction equipment is also being upgraded to reduce apparent power consumption which leads to electricity bill savings. In addition, coal-fired boilers have been installed in the smelter plant.


Given the strain on South Africa’s energy utility Eskom, energy efficiency was a key imperative at the planning and design phase of the new Booysendal mine. Since the commissioning of the mine, a panel management system is being introduced which will assist with the protection and annual testing of the medium voltage network, and fault analysis. Once this system has begun to produce data, Booysendal will be in a position to identify areas where electricity savings may be effected.

Booysendal currently has sufficient power to continue operating, with one incoming Eskom line and transformers capable of sustaining 80MVA. The maximum demand at the moment is 29MVA. As an additional measure, Booysendal has implemented a solar-aided water heating system at the mine’s change house.

    Zondereinde   Booysendal
  F2013 F2012 F2011 F2013
Energy from electricity purchased by shafts 485 654 461 484 461 484 6 726
Energy from electricity purchased by plants 101 732 125 548 140 406 7 533
Total electricity purchased 587 386 593 441 601 890 14 259


The risk posed by climate change to Northam’s operations continues to be moderate on a physical and regulatory front. The company manages this risk primarily through its energy conservation initiatives. The risk is also tempered by the fact that PGMs are used in technologies that reduce noxious gases, and so contribute to limiting the potential for climate change.

The company has considered the risks and opportunities relating to climate change, including the financial implications of this, in its fifth consecutive voluntary submission to the CDP. This may be found at

Zondereinde’s most significant emissions or potential discharges are SO2 emissions (directly from the smelting operations), CO2 emissions (both direct and indirect), potential discharges to water courses and dust generation from tailings dams. In F2013 4 236 tonnes of SO2 were emitted by the Zondereinde operations.

The new National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, which came into effect during F2013, will have an impact on Northam’s emissions. The company intends to submit an application to the National Air Quality Advisory Committee for the postponement of compliance with the new emission requirements, as the construction of its new SO2 treatment plant may require more time than that allocated.


The bulk of Zondereinde’s CO2 emissions are largely attributable to indirect emissions from electricity purchased from Eskom. Progress towards reducing CO2 emissions continues to be made, with Northam already achieving a reduction of electricity consumption as a result of the implementation of energy-efficiency projects at Zondereinde which has a direct impact on the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted into the atmosphere.

None of the activities undertaken at Booysendal are listed in terms of the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act of 1965. As a result, no GHG emissions are monitored at the operation.

  F2013 F2012 F2011
Total Scope 1 emissions (direct emissions) 15 509 15 401 14 432
Total Scope 2 emissions (indirect emissions) 605 008 611 244 619 947
Total Scope 3 emissions (indirect emissions) 665 815 1 089
Total emissions 621 183 627 460 635 468


Dust is monitored on a regular basis at Zondereinde. Northam’s stakeholder engagement policies and procedures are equipped to deal with any complaints lodged by interested and affected parties regarding dust emissions, and such individuals are encouraged to come forward with concerns they may have. Since Zondereinde started operations, however, no complaints related to dust emissions have been received.

At Zondereinde’s tailings dams, Fraser Alexander is currently overseeing the planting of vegetation in order to mitigate wind and water erosion. This also serves to prevent any dust management issues that may arise.

Dust monitoring at Booysendal continues to be conducted to determine the impact of mining activities on the areas surrounding the operation. Figures indicate that the areas being monitored are well within residential limits, and previously exposed areas at Booysendal have been paved, tarred or grassed. The few areas where dust is produced are monitored and watered down as required.

No external complaints have been received regarding dust emissions. The mine’s location in a valley surrounded by mountains means that dust does not disperse into the surrounding communities. Internal complaints, however, were received during the year, but most of these problem areas have since been paved.


Northam is the custodian of the land where its operations are based. None of Zondereinde’s mining and surface treatment activities are situated in areas protected by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, where the Red List of Threatened Species may be encountered; or in biosphere reserves; or contain Red Data species. Booysendal; however, falls within the Sekhukhuneland Centre of Plant Endemism (SCPE), and more specifically the Roossenekal Subcentre of Endemism. In addition, the Mpumalanga province’s conservation authorities’ sophisticated world-class modelling system ascribes priorities to particular landscape areas for conservation purposes – and the Booysendal property encompasses several landscape types, which are critically important for conservation action.

The management and conservation of land at Zondereinde’s mine and metallurgical complex is simpler than Booysendal’s on a number of fronts, aided by the fact that the necessary policies and practices are entrenched within the mine’s culture.

Zondereinde’s landholding far exceeds the actual surface footprint of the complex, with surface freehold covering some 4 439 hectares. The land is divided as follows:

The rehabilitation of Zondereinde’s tailings storage facility remains a priority, to reduce dust levels and for aesthetic reasons. Final rehabilitation will only take place after closure.

  Zondereinde Booysendal
Land disturbed by mining and related activities 137 521
Land leased for farming purposes 273 N/A
Land protected for conservation 800 960
Total land under management (freehold) 4 439 6 773


Worldwide, mining is generally considered to have large-scale adverse environmental impacts. In the planning and development of new mines companies have the choice of simply complying with increasing environmental legislation and societal pressure to account for their actions, or to shift the goal posts entirely and to take the lead in augmenting their primary activities with ancillary undertakings that add value to their business, society in general and the environment in particular.

At the planning stages of Booysendal, Northam’s senior executives understood the critical importance of the host area, the Dwarsrivier Valley, to the sustained biodiversity of the region. The area falls within the SCPE, and more specifically the Roossenekal Subcentre of Endemism. In addition, the Mpumalanga province’s conservation authorities’ sophisticated world class modelling system ascribes priorities to particular landscape areas for conservation purposes – and the Booysendal property encompasses several landscape types which are critically important for conservation action.

The area, situated on the foothills and high-lying areas of the escarpment, is host to forest patches, to small wetlands and seepages, and to grasslands. Some threatened small mammals and fish species have been identified in the area. Research has also indicated that the threatened SCPE is not formally protected, and that more land needs to be incorporated within reserves to protect the province’s biodiversity.

Faced with little prospect of growth elsewhere, Northam was presented with a difficult business choice – abandon the project, and run down the mature Zondereinde mine, and eventually put 9 000 people out of work, or come up with something innovative. Northam’s approach to the environmental conundrum it was facing was entirely novel: there was acceptance from senior executives, and the chief executive in particular, that traditional mine management compliance with environmental regulations would be inadequate in this instance. The chief executive actively led the following principles and initiatives:

The Buttonshope Conservancy Trust has been created with a diverse spread of board members – three senior Northam executives including the chief executive, and three external independent representatives: Prof Brian Reilly from the Tshwane University of Technology, Mr Brian Morris, a member of the MTPA and an independent conservation expert, Mr Mark Botha.

To date progress has been made in the following areas:

Northam has picked a route in its Booysendal development where biodiversity conservation and its long-term funding are key objectives of business. Key to this has been the creation of the Buttonshope Conservancy Trust, asset based and linked to mineral abstraction to provide long-term funding for conservation and offset management and expansion.