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Global mining trends show increased momentum in the transition towards environmentally sustainable mining practices and conversations on tackling climate change (Mining3, 2023). This is quite reflective of the African mining industry trajectory as well, as mining is believed to be a key role player in the energy transition and the uptake of green technologies due to producing a majority of the minerals that are needed to make these advancements possible (Africa News, 2024).

For instance, platinum has been identified as a key metal in the green revolution (Billion Exchange, 2023), used in the production of fuel cells, which are crucial for the powering of electric vehicles, as well as for the catalytic converters used in the generation of green hydrogen through electrolysis (Johnson Matthey, 2023). The transition to sustainable mining practices and forms of energy production is a very significant shift by the mining industry, both locally and globally, however, the same types of innovative thinking and proactiveness need to be given to post-mining activities and land use options.

Due to the significant impacts that mines have on local communities, it is becoming increasingly important for South African mines to continue extending their thinking beyond rehabilitation and considering alternative and innovative post-mining land use opportunities. The Longevity of Current Mines: Future Sustainable Mining report explores a variety of options for the conversion of existing liabilities into assets, as well as mechanisms that may be key in driving this conversion.

From contextualising the Longevity of Current Mines: Future Sustainable Mining programme by the Mandela Mining Precinct (including programme support by the Research Institute for Innovation and Sustainability, and which support has culminated in this report), and the South African mining sector, the report explores some of the key challenges facing the mining industry across four areas, namely, energy; land and the environment; tailings; and water. For each of these areas, innovative solutions and interventions have been posited and explored. Included in the report are case studies as proof of concept for each of the interventions, and industry insights that were drawn from stakeholder engagements and a Future Sustainable Mining survey.

Against the backdrop of the several solutions and interventions available to the mining industry, the report explores the implementation of these through the lens of key mechanisms that can drive uptake. These include legislation, public-private partnerships, access to capital, and skills development. Each is interrogated in terms of their ability to drive the implementation of sustainable mining practices, as well as to support the uptake of innovative post-mining land use interventions. This ultimately assists mines in turning potential mining liabilities into assets.

The report seeks to encourage the uptake of sustainable mining practices and innovative approaches to post-mining land use, and spur mines into thinking and planning beyond rehabilitation to virgin states to sustainable interventions that will empower mining communities, well beyond mine closure.