South Africa is experiencing significant effects of climate change, particularly as a result of increased temperatures and rainfall variability. The mining sector is a key economic sector in South Africa, which is likely to be highly impacted by climate change, given its strong interlinkages with vulnerable natural resources, such as land, water and energy.
Against this background, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy commissioned OneWorld to undertake a climate change risk and vulnerability (R&V) assessment for the mining sector in South Africa.
This falls within the context of the Draft National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, which aims to encourage sector departments to identify and map risks and vulnerabilities relevant to their sectors, as a basis for developing a climate change response implementation plan.
This assignment involved desk-based research and analysis, along with initial stakeholder consultations, to develop a situation analysis report on the impact of climate change on mining in South Africa.
This informed the development of an R&V assessment, in consultation with key stakeholders in the mining sector in South Africa. OneWorld applied a combination of GIS, remote sensing and participatory analysis to inform the R&V assessment. Participatory analysis was conducted using OneWorld’s 1st-to-4th Order Impact Assessment model for assessing the causal linkages and systemic impacts of climate change.
The assessment considered both small- and large-scale mining activities, both in relation to the impacts of climate change on the industry and in terms of how the industry’s actions contribute towards their respective levels of vulnerability. The final situation analysis incorporated multiple rounds of inputs from all key stakeholders to validate the findings.
Key findings showed that CC impacts across the mining regions of the country, with the primary risks being increased hot days, with temperatures projected to be regularly above those considered acceptable for workers under health and safety standards (thus necessitating increased cooling infrastructure investment or loss of productive days of workers), and increased frequency and intensity of flood events, with mine pit flooding resulting in damages to mining operational equipment and loss of operational productive days. Mining also impacts human health in other ways, e.g. polluted water and land resources increasing the vulnerability of local communities to CC impacts and reduced air quality, particularly in the coal mining areas in Mpumalanga, resulting in severe respiratory disease in local communities.