Developing a generic model of the initial review process for a gold mine shaft business unit
Meyer, Theunis Christoffel
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South Africa is one of the world's foremost mining nations and mining and its associated industries continue to form the cornerstone of the country's economy. However, the mining industry has, by its very nature, the potential to endanger human health and safety, as well as the physical environment. Consequently, mining will always contend with major environmental challenges and remain under constant public pressure to demonstrate its commitment to responsible environmental management. The key to effective environmental management is the use of a systematic approach to plan, control and improve environmental efforts. An Environmental Management System (EMS) employs such an approach and allows organisations to address environmental concerns in an orderly and consistent manner. Such a system allows organisations to anticipate and meet their environmental objectives and to ensure ongoing compliance with national and/or international requirements. An organisation with no existing EMS should, initially, establish its current position with regard to the environment by means of an initial review process. The aim should be to consider all environmental aspects of the organisation as a basis for establishing the EMS. Although a few gold mines in South Africa have implemented an EMS, the question of which significant environmental aspects need to be managed in such a system at a deep level gold mine shaft, remains largely unanswered. This study endeavoured to provide answers to this question and develop a generic model for the initial review process of a deep level gold mine shaft. The development of such a model should facilitate the development and implementation of an EMS at such shafts, thereby contributing to reduce the environmental impact of gold mines. The research consisted of a literature review of national and international literature on the topic and a comparative empirical study, which evaluated the mining operations of two deep level gold mine shafts. Data collection and analysis was done according to the IS0 14015 guideline on the environmental assessment of sites and organisations. Other techniques used included business process analysis, the use of modified Leopoldt matrices and risk analysis to determine the significance of the environmental impacts and aspects. This study contributed to a generic model for the initial environmental review process that precedes the development of an EMS at deep level gold mine shafts through: developing a generic sub-model that can be used to determine the scope of any deep level gold mine shaft; identifying some of the significant environmental impacts and aspects of deep level gold mine shafts, as well as identifying some generic business activities that are potentially destructive and carry a high risk of causing significant negative environmental impacts.