Understanding our impacts enables us to implement effective biodiversity management plans with standards that inform our monitoring and reporting processes, and uphold our licence to operate.
In compliance with the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act 10 of 2004), we are committed to preserving biodiversity-rich ecosystems that protect species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and control the impact of invasive alien vegetation.
Our holistic approach to biodiversity management combines:
Our biodiversity management programmes and stakeholder engagement are overseen by a team at our operations and head office, including executives and mine management, and sustainability and environmental specialists.
We experienced minor challenges such as restricted access to privately owned land within our mining right area for the removal of invasive alien plants and delays in permit approval by authorities for species relocation from the mining area into conservation land at Belfast. We therefore cleared 58% less invasive alien vegetation compared to the previous year.
We did not record any biodiversity-related grievances in 2022. Environmental grievances can be raised at environmental stakeholder engagements and as part of the complaints process at each operation. Grievances are managed by environmental personnel with the support of head office specialists and actions are monitored.
Our programmes were based on various biodiversity needs at BUs.
Our team works closely with authorities in relocating baboon spiders and protected succulent species as our mining footprint expands. This reflects our commitment to continuous biodiversity vigilance for conservation of protected and endangered species.
Our 22 000ha Manketti Game Reserve continues to optimise land use
Managed by Ferroland Grondtrust, a wholly owned subsidiary of Exxaro, the land was a cattle farm until indigenous wildlife was introduced more than 18 years ago. The thriving game reserve generates income from commercial hunting, game trading and accommodation at Manketti Lodge. It maintains the ecological balance of the prescribed area and manages land not impacted by mining operations.
Digby Wells (environmental consultants) discovered a pair of African grass owls with chicks at Matla in 2022 before construction of a river diversion canal. As other breeding pairs were found on the site in 2013 and 2016, Exxaro has partnered with the Endangered Wildlife Trust to develop a monitoring programme that could enhance our existing processes. We are considering transferring skills from this monitoring programme across the Highveld.
Within the Belfast conservation area, we also assist the Birds of Prey NGO with the safe and controlled release of grass owls and bats. By installing owl boxes and bat banks, we create a balance within the ecosystem along the Klein Komati River and surrounding agricultural areas. Grass owls help control vlei rat populations and bats reduce insect species that are considered pests in local communities.
Cennergi: Bird and bat fatality
Since 2016, as part of our commitment to mitigate the impact of wind turbines on birds and bats, Cennergi has employed local carcass search companies. These companies monitor bird and bat fatalities in accordance with the South African bird and bat wind energy facilities guidelines.
At Amakhala Emoyeni, a bat curtailment programme will be implemented between October 2022 and May 2023 to reduce fatalities. The avifauna specialists prepare the semi-annual bird and bat monitoring reports submitted to lenders, BirdLife Africa, Endangered Wildlife Trust, the DFFE and other relevant authorities.
In 2022, no red data mortalities were recorded at Tsitsikamma. Unfortunately, one secretary bird (sagittarius serpentarius) fatality was recorded at Amakhala Emoyeni on 21 September 2022.
Cennergi supports the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Eastern Cape vulture safe zone research. This programme aims to reduce Cape vulture fatalities at operating and proposed wind energy facilities. It also stabilises the local population by addressing threats in the safe zone. It is the first habitat safe for vultures within wind energy facilities and the surrounding landscape.
Vultures have incredible eyesight during the day that enables them to spot an animal carcass from around 6km away. We also implement the on-site Cape vulture food management programme, which entails removing livestock and wildlife carcasses to minimise collisions with wind turbines. In 2022, no Cape vulture fatalities were recorded.
The positive outcomes of monitoring, controlling and eradicating invasive alien plant species on our sites include improved water quality and surface water runoff, flourishing indigenous vegetation, increased species diversity, and availability of productive land.
Across our sites, we progressed in avoiding:
Invasive alien plant control continues at BUs and will start at Grootegeluk in 2023. The tender process to appoint a service provider began in the third quarter of 2022.
| Stage 1
Development of invader species management plan
| Stage 2
Physical implementation (removal of invader species)
| Stage 3
Maintenance (eradication of invaders on rehabilitated land)
Completed To start in 2023 Ongoing
|Land cleared of invader plants (ha)
Following an assessment of pans at Belfast by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in 2019, and subsequent monitoring by Exxaro since 2020 to avoid deprivation, an external reviewer conducts monthly and quarterly evaluations.
Recommendations from our completed pan research project are being evaluated to determine the next steps.
We monitor and evaluate our wetland rehabilitation activities to ensure on-site mitigation measures deliver anticipated returns.
We completed rehabilitation of the wetland system adjacent to Belfast in 2020. The second phase will begin in 2023 to improve wetlands within the mining right area. We will appoint a contractor to execute the implementation plan.
In 2021 the proof-of-concept study in the Grootegeluk mining rights area was completed and six seasonal pans were created using donor material from pans that will be lost to mining.
The seasonal pans referred to low laying areas that occur naturally in the landscape. These pans have a clay base that captures and stores water in the rainy season. During the rest of the year, they are dry.
The clay and biological material was stripped from the "donor" pans in front of the pit area, which would otherwise have been lost to mining, to test if similar pans could successfully be created. Six pans were created testing various scenarios, where donor clay was used for sealing and the biological layer (filled with eggs of the invertebrates that occur within the natural pans) was used for seeding the invertebrate species into the newly created pans. Over time, it is expected that the biodiversity in the created pans will resemble that of the originally harvested/lost pans, should the study show to be successful. The five-year programme to monitor the project's success started in January 2022. The outcome of the monitoring programme will determine if the pans can be successfully recreated as part of future rehabilitation or offsetting.
Biomonitoring continues in terms of the WUL requirements for Grootegeluk, Tshikondeni and Thabametsi.
A detailed report of wetland monitoring will be submitted to the DWS in 2023.
We will review the implementation of the wetland offset initiative in 2023 following the termination of the divestment process in 2022.
Exxaro intends to introduce detailed regional biodiversity management plans based on our impact assessments in 2022. Plans will ensure compliance, and inform targets and KPIs being developed for each BU.
Exxaro worked with the Peace Parks Foundation and Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas in relocating seven black rhino — identified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species — from our Manketti Game Reserve in Limpopo to Zinave National Park in Mozambique during the year.