The $400-million Gamsberg zinc and lead project, in the Northern Cape, has become the largest mining project under execution in the South Africa.
From the discovery of the zinc deposit in 1972 and its not being developed into a mine by various mining companies for more than 40 years, the project – a flagship development for Vedanta Zinc International – is well under way to reach first production by mid-2018, to ramp up to full production within 9 to 12 months thereafter and feed into a global supply-demand gap.
Key to Vedanta Zinc International is its biodiversity drive, as the Gamsberg project falls in the ecologically sensitive Succulent Karoo Biome – one of the world’s 35 biodiversity hot spots. This region contains more than 400 unique succulent plant species and, within the Gamsberg ecosystem, there are about 397 plant species, of which 16 are recognised as endemic.
“To balance the socioeconomic benefits of developing the Gamsberg project with the need to preserve the unique biodiversity of this arid zone, Vedanta Zinc International has developed – in compliance with the Vedanta Sustainable Development Framework and expert external inputs – a clearly defined biodiversity action plan,” Kumar emphasises.
Key actions in the company’s biodiversity drive to date include the harvesting of almost 85 000 plants, which will be relocated in the future to other nurseries and botanical gardens. The company also donated plants to the South African Biodiversity Institute and the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden. Further, it collected more than 300 000 seeds for storage in the Gamsberg nursery seedbank for future germination.
Kumar also highlights the start of the implementation of a biodiversity offset agreement between the company and the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Nature Conservation. “The agreement involves Gamsberg’s purchasing and handing over more than 12 500 ha of substantially intact land to offset the impact of land disturbed by Gamsberg’s development,” Kumar says.