Environmental stewardship and the mining sector – powering a greener future
We and our planet are in an environmental crisis. Climate change, population growth, pollution, poverty, and an increasing demand for natural resources which are damaging to our natural ecosystems, are some of the most significant challenges we must overcome. The impact of human industry on our atmosphere, land, water, and biodiversity is not only visible today but is also increasing over time. But with these pressing challenges also come unique opportunities for change. Reducing the environmental impact of the mining industry has become more than an ethical or regulatory imperative; it can also be a viable business model that capitalises on resource efficiency to achieve long-term sustainability and business resilience.
World Environment Day gives us the chance to raise awareness and participate in conversations about our environment. Exxaro is one of South Africa’s largest coal mining companies but also one of the first significant investors in renewable energy solutions. Protecting our ecosystems and transitioning towards cleaner, renewable energy has long been a core strategic objective for Exxaro.
The importance of environmental stewardship
Responsible environmental stewardship is about protecting and preserving natural resources for the greater good of all our stakeholders. Water scarcity, air pollution, biodiversity threats, hazardous waste, and climate change all pose significant environmental and financial risks that we need to manage while delivering on other business objectives. Without a clear environmental strategy in mind, it is not possible for the business to be able to respond effectively to the emergent systemic shocks and be sustainable. Given our dependence on natural resources and systems for human sustainability, an inconsiderate approach to environmental stewardship will undermine much-needed development and human progress.
Since 2006, we have developed group-wide environmental management standards which are reviewed annually and guided by reference to global instruments. In the next 10 years, we plan to increase our efforts and focus on environmental stewardship by reducing our greenhouse gases through investing in self-generated renewable electricity and alternative fuels, ensuring water availability through efficiency and recycling efforts, managing the potential effects of severe weather events (such as heatwaves) through best practice adaptive methods and waste management through increased recycling considerations.
Transitioning to a low-carbon future
Fossil fuels are becoming a less acceptable energy source and global energy generation is moving towards renewable energy, hence Exxaro has made the strategic decision not to seek further growth in thermal coal. As the largest supplier of coal to Eskom, however, our coal portfolio remains a valuable natural resource that must be extracted optimally and responsibly to continue providing energy security, which will support economic growth and social development in South Africa. An early maximisation of the value of our coal assets will enable our transition to low-carbon alternatives while minimising the social impact on employees and communities that depend on the coal economy and enabling a Just Transition to a low-carbon economy.
In 2009, we made our first significant investment in renewable energy with the Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm, providing 95 megawatts of clean, zero-carbon energy into the national power grid. In 2012, we partnered with the Tata Power Company to form Cennergi and began our second renewable energy project: the Amakhala Emoyeni Wind Farm. In 2019, we further bolstered our renewable energy portfolio by acquiring the remaining 50% share of Cennergi.
With these investments, we have firmly established ourselves as a leader in green energy while continuing to deliver high-quality coal to our existing clients. Building our renewable energy portfolio not only gives us long-term resilience to climate-related risks but also…