In the run up to our annual Sustainability Summit taking place on 3 March 2020, we’ve taken time to reflect on some of the most pressing sustainability challenges faced by the mining industry, and what Exxaro is doing to conduct our business activities in ways that promote sustainable solutions for society.
Health: The pulse of our operations
When it comes to health, the primary challenges faced by the mining sector include noise- induced hearing loss and occupational lung disease, particularly silicosis. Both pulmonary TB and HIV/AIDS are also significant public health threats in the country.
Exxaro has ongoing initiatives to combat TB and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment thus ensuring that workers remain in good health. Our current health offerings include HIV/AIDS awareness training and testing, X-rays, hearing and lung function tests as well as DNA analysis and health coaching.
Importantly, these services are in line with the United Nations #Envision2030 Goal of Good Health and Well-being aimed at ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases by 2030.
Mental health and substance abuse also form part of these services where we offer general counselling to address depression, addiction and anxiety. As part of this employee assistance programme, we offer advice, counselling and treatment plans to strengthen the prevention and treatment of these diseases.
Our overall approach to health and well-being is based on three pillars: Diagnose, Manage and Prevent. During diagnosis we focus on extending clinical tests including ECG and risk-based cancer screenings. The ultimate vision is to have 100% of Exxaro employees receive a once-off DNA analysis, which will enable us to recommend disease management programmes based on the valuable data retrieved from the DNA testing in order for the employees to manage their health against certain conditions.
To prevent diseases from developing or worsening, mandatory comprehensive wellness and healthy lifestyle coaching programmes are also in place. Vaccines, supplements and prophylaxes are also distributed to ensure health and well-being.
Safety: Striving for zero harm
Like many industries, mining brings with it certain risks and hazards, which require unremitting commitment and strict adherence to safety standards and procedures. To this end, Exxaro has committed to the principle of zero harm, with the goal that every worker should return home unharmed every day.
Zero Harm remains our key safety objective. We aim to consistently achieve this through collective responsibility, commitment and ongoing focus. As a testament of our journey to zero harm, on 3 March this year we will be celebrating our three-year fatality-free milestone.
As our CEO and the President of the Minerals Council South Africa, Mxolisi Mgojo, would say “The safety and well-being of our people continues to be a key focus area for us. We, therefore, commit ourselves to providing the best in healthcare services to ensure that our employees are well taken care of and able to perform to the best of their abilities”.
Environment: Maximising our net positive footprint
The mining industry competes with other sectors for precious natural resources like land and water. In South Africa, the situation is exacerbated by a legacy of more than 100 years of mining, which has led to various environmental challenges like acid mine drainage and dust from dumps.
As a responsible corporate citizen that plays an active role in protecting and preserving the environment, Exxaro is always looking for ways to maximise our net positive footprint.
Our wind farm, Amakhala Emoyeni in the Eastern Cape, supplies approximately 450 559MWh
of electricity a year to Eskom’s electricity network and is expected to offset approximately 445 152 tons of CO2 a year from the atmosphere.
Through various integrated measures, over the past five years we’ve reduced our greenhouse gas (GMG) emissions by 17% per copper equivalent unit.
We’re also committed to using water as efficiently as possible. At our Grootegeluk Mine, we’ve constructed cyclic ponds that reclaim all water and material from the mine’s fines complex. Our Matla Coal Mine uses desalination technology to convert water from its underground mine into drinking water. In doing so, Matla has released over 3 million kilolitres of safe water into the Olifants catchment.
Even at our head office building, the conneXXion, we strive to live out our sustainability and health strategy in every way we can. The building has achieved a five-star Green Star design rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa, and is powered entirely by rooftop solar farms. Grey water systems in the basement supply the restrooms and gardens and waste separation takes place on every office floor.
Everything Exxaro does today is geared toward ensuring a safer and more sustainable tomorrow. With careful management, innovative policies and a spirit of full accountability, we can continue to create a positive impact in the country’s economy and its people for generations to come.