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Turning South African mining liabilities to assets that further positive social, economic, and environmental outcomes

RIIS partnered with a leading public-private partnership (PPP) mining initiative to support the development of a scope of work for future sustainable mining, particularly in South Africa’s platinum, gold and chrome mining industries. This work was to look specifically at mechanisms that could shift current mining liabilities into valuable assets, and to identify the relevant actors driving that process.

South Africa is the world’s leading producer of both platinum (accounting for 80% of the world’s platinum) and chrome (holding around 72% of the world’s chromite resources), and remains a leading mining jurisdiction for gold (accounting for 50% of all gold reserves).


The primary aim of the PPP programme has been, in part, to design and implement high potential interventions that are applicable to the platinum, gold and chrome industries, and which are able to successfully convert existing liabilities into assets whilst driving positive economic, social, and environmental impact.

It is critical for these interventions to address three important mining challenges, namely, the environmental custodianship and rehabilitation beyond the life of the mine; energy optimisation and management ensuring future sustainable operations; and water consumption and management ensuring future sustainable operations.


The first phase sought to define the challenge space; in other words, to uncover and document – via desktop research and stakeholder interviews – the key challenges and their root causes.  Recognising that these challenge areas do not exist in isolation, RIIS adopted a holistic view to defining the problem space, taking into account broader contributing factors. It was important to document the challenges both from a legislative perspective (the framework within which mining operates) and through a lens of mitigation opportunities. The identified challenges were comprehensive, encompassing land, air, water, energy and community impacts.

The second phase was concerned with defining the solution space. While it was evident that a wide variety of solution areas and emerging technologies are available for adoption by the mining industry, not all solution areas have the potential to meaningfully convert assets to liabilities and drive positive social, environmental, and economic outcomes to the same extent. A series of cases studies were identified, defined and developed for potential interventions, particularly based on the existence of strong impact pathways within the challenge areas.

Part of the solutioning component was to develop a framework for the prioritisation of solution areas. This was important for focusing areas of study, and also for providing a useful tool for the industry – in the form of a case study template – to support decision-making in pursuing solution areas for their own operations.

The prioritisation framework was applied to various case studies to highlight the factors that contribute to successful implementation of renewable energy technologies in mining operations. This better equips mining companies to learn from the experiences of others and identify best practices for implementation. The outcome was a comprehensive document with key information that drilled down into the conversion of liabilities into assets, as well as the promotion of sustainable mining practices. The solution areas were governed by minimal environmental impact, maximal human resource intervention, and renewable energy adoption and adaptation for mining processes and as an important value-addition to the mining sector’s offering.

Should you wish to find out more about the process that was undertaken in this particular project, please contact RIIS.