An environmental rehabilitation project at Impala Rustenburg’s tailings dam complex, known as the Woodchips Project, has given birth to a business — Monontsha — which is majority owned by women and has generated 48 jobs.
Woodchips are taken from Impala Rustenburg’s mining operations and combined with sewage sludge from the company’s water treatment works and earthworms to form compost which is used in the rehabilitation of the slopes of the tailings dam. The technology was developed by Impala Rustenburg and the University of North West (Potchefstroom campus) six years ago.
Seventy-five per cent of Monontsha — the word means ‘fertiliser’ — is owned by women from the nearby village of Luka with the balance being held by Landfill Consult. The employees all come from Luka. Impala Rustenburg spends in the order of R4 million a year on Monontsha for services provided, which includes the transport of compost and sludge, composting and the vegetating of the tailings dams.
The business has three main areas of activity transport, composting and vegetation — and each is headed by a woman. The woodchips has to be collected as does the dried and treated sewage sludge. Doreen Mabale is responsible for the transport function and says: “I never thought waste could create jobs.”
Alien vegetation growing on the slopes of the dam is removed before the compost is added, followed by the sowing of a mixture of indigenous seeds. After the first rains have fallen, it does not take long before new vegetation becomes established. Priscilla Lenkoe who is in charge of the vegetation process says: “We are happy as a community that Impala created jobs for us and reduced employment in the area.” Since the start of this project about two years ago 34.4ha have been successfully rehabilitated.
The preparation of the compost is directed by Daphne Mantswe who explains that it takes 12 weeks before it is ready for use on the slopes.
The manager of the Woodchips project, Sam Chauke, from Landfill Consult comments: “The project is a success. The provincial Department of Minerals and Energy and community leaders have acknowledged the tailings dam will be rehabilitated. This is a sustainable environmental solution well beyond the life of mine.”
There has also been endorsement for the research that gave rise to the technology that is used and for the positive effect that the project has had on the community. Professor Leon van Rensburg, who was responsible for the research, was awarded with a gold medal by the South African Academy for Sciences Arts & Culture while the project as a whole earned a merit award from the Mail & Guardian’s Investing in the Future Awards in 2006. These awards were established to recognise and reward corporate best practice.