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    2:16am on Mar 23, 2023

Wetlands Action for People and Nature

This year we explore how we have invested in our wetlands

World Wetlands Day 2022

This day, 2 February, marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, since this date with wetlands having been recognized as critical ecosystems they have been celebrated globally. This year also marks the first year that World Wetlands Day is celebrated as an official United Nations international day.

What do wetlands mean to Sibanye-Stillwater

We believe wetlands are critical ecosystems that support our business, communities and ensure we are all resilient to the impacts of climate change, through their role in green-house gas reduction, buffering the impacts of changes in the weather and supporting healthy ecosystems. We recognize the invaluable functions they play in fostering a diverse biological mix of species, storing water, improving water quality through the biological and chemical processes that reduce nutrients, carbon and metals and providing critical resources such as water, food and textiles. For these reasons, we have embedded investing in our wetlands into our operational and strategic objectives of developing a climate change resilient business and entrenching long term economic sustainability.

Where human activities expand unsustainably, we can see the gradual decline in biodiversity with less pollinators to support our crops, fewer songbirds in our skies, and polluted stinking waters flowing through our parks. Think back to these same roads you have travelled and how they have changed and contemplate how you can support them. Only together can we manage our catchments successfully, every small change adds-up to a big difference to the ecosystems and the services they provide.

The platinum mile in North West Province of South Africa - a diverse mix of communities, mining and agriculture all depending on wetland ecosystems for resources, flood and drought management and the support of biodiversity

Sibanye-Stillwater Position Statements support responsible wetland management action

Biodiversity Position Statement:

  • Objective 2: Effective assessment of biodiversity resources (the mix of species and how they interact with the non-living environment) to ensure the evidence-based implementation of the mitigation hierarchy (the step-wise and interlinked implementation of avoidance, mitigation, restoration and off-setting) and protection of critical ecosystems and species.
  • Objective 3: Informed and proactive management of biological diversity resources to promote resilient post-mining ecosystems (to be a force for good within the communities we operate to ensure they have functional resources to support post-mining development).
  • Objective 4: Risk management and effective communication to support decision-making towards ecologically sustainable business practices.

Water Health Position Statement:

  • Objective 2: Ensure proactive management of water systems to drive sustainable ecosystems and ecosystem functionality.
  • Objective 3: Pro-active water management towards mine-closure that supports sustainable post-mining environments, communities and economies.

Climate Change Position Statement:

  • Objective 1, Strategic Initiative 6: Implement appropriate and value-adding nature-based solutions (such as reducing wetland destruction and increasing wetland restoration to increase green-house gas reduction by wetlands) to off-set carbon emissions.

Water Stewardship Position Statement:

  • Objective 5: Drive sustainable mine closure strategies… which include integrated water resource planning as part of the strategic initiatives.

Please refer to the Sibanye-Stillwater website at https://www.sibanyestillwater.com/sustainability/environment/  for our position statements.

How have we invested in wetlands?

The Mitigation hierarchy

Sibanye-Stillwater released its first Biological Diversity Procedure for all its sites in 2021. The Procedure requires the application of the mitigation hierarchy1 from feasibility to post-closure project phases.

This means that we aim to avoid  impacts to critical ecosystems, like wetlands. Thereafter we execute on mitigation, restoration and off-setting to arrive at a state in biodiversity that has not deteriorated since we started management of the sites. In short, there should be no deterioration in water quality, wetlands and our ecosystems will continue to form an integral part of our carbon neutral journey.

To achieve this, we execute on detailed option analyses that consider environmental, social, economic, health and safety factors to ensure the best practicable and sustainable option is executed to support our objectives of achieving no net loss in biodiversity resources. In this manner we embed ESG in the way we do business and become a force for good.

1The steps to be taken when deciding on all activities that may impact upon biological diversity resources. It is a step-wise approach that includes: avoidance, mitigation, restoration/ rehabilitation and off-setting. These steps should be used in conjunction with one another to achieve the best possible outcome.

Avoid: In 2021 we invested in detailed specialist studies to advise on avoidance of critical wetland areas, this resulted in the redesign and repositioning of new infrastructure including pipelines, vent shafts, roads and tailing storage facilities.

East Boulder Mine baseline wetland assessment (US operations) ensuring avoidance of wetlands for future infrastructure.
Burnstone wetland assessment (SA gold operations) for new infrastructure option analyses

Mitigate: Where we do impact on our rich wetland systems, we investigate and continuously improve upon our mitigation measures. In 2021 plume interception boreholes, effective stormwater management, enhanced water treatment systems and secondary containment measures were implemented to prevent any material entering sensitive areas. This resulted in an improvement in water quality supporting a wider range of species and human uses, our 2021 annual integrated report will expand on these positive changes.

Cooke 1 on-surface water treatment plant (SA gold operations), ensuring the water quality discharges does not impact on the ecosystems upon which we rely
East Boulder mine water treatment plant (US operations) achieving 95% reduction of nitrogen prior to discharge in the East Boulder River valley.
Wonderkop wastewater treatment works at our SA PGM operations servicing the mine and communities, and reducing water used from freshwater systems
Drilling of plume interception boreholes

Restore: At Sibanye-Stillwater we know restoration is a continuous process, one that requires regular review and adaptation to ensure the best practicable and sustainable solutions are executed. These solutions must consider all environmental, social and economic conditions both at present and in future.

The option analyses embedded in our Biological Diversity Procedure are site and situation specific, with the end wetland condition to be improved from its baseline condition (the condition of the wetland before Sibanye-Stillwater took ownership) or the same as the pre-mining state (new developments).

Alien and invasive species removal that allows the natural vegetation to flourish and regenerate the ecosystems
Rock Dump ridge and wetland rehabilitation conceptual design

How can you invest in wetlands?

Our wetlands need your support, you can do this by:

  • Report, follow-up and assistance in resolution of on uncontrolled sewage and other third party discharges into our river systems and catchments
  • Do not litter and reduce your waste – recycle is the only way to go!
  • Report and follow up on reports of incidents to the responsible persons in your community
  • Do not dump hazardous liquids into wetlands and their catchments
  • Do not drive in wetlands
  • Keep your livestock out of wetlands, build kraal’s and feedlots away from wetlands
  • Do not remove wetland vegetation
  • Support alien and invasive plant species removal projects
  • Carefully consider and seek specialist advice on the placement of houses, weirs, dams, abstraction points and other infrastructure so that the wetland and the infrastructure do not get damaged

Find out more

Find out more about the initiatives we are undertaking to improve and support our wetland systems at https://www.sibanyestillwater.com/sustainability/reports-policies/  or contact your shafts Environmental Representative to get more info on how you can help!


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