Working in the Northern Cape’s highly sensitive Succulent Karoo Biome, Vedanta Zinc International (VZI) prioritised biodiversity and environmental safeguards during the licencing process for their flagship Gamsberg Project.
The Succulent Karoo Biome is unique, even for South Africa, renowned as we are for our floral diversity. The biome is home to at least 6,000 species of plants that have evolved over millennia to survive the desert’s aridity, many of them rare and, until our environmentalists started on the area, some of which had been previously unrecorded.
The Bushmanland Centre of Endemism is smaller but nevertheless hosts 397 unique succulents, among them 16 that are endemic and four that are restricted to a small space. VZI was faced with a major challenge of how to develop the Gamsberg Project both without damaging the fragile site and in a way that would ensure the area can be restored when mining ends.
VZI’s environmental specialists worked closely with a wide range of experts to design and implement a process to ensure the necessary protection, preservation and ultimate restoration. VZI enlisted advice from a range of environmental organisations, local and international, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature – one of the world’s oldest and most respected environmental groups.
As part of the Gamsberg licencing process, VZI signed a biodiversity offset agreement with the Northern Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Nature Conservation (DENC), on 16 October 2014. This agreement required VZI to secure 12 500 substantially intact hectares comprising:
VZI ultimately secured 21,900ha (four properties in total), and started the formal process of transferring this land to the Northern Cape Provincial Government in September 2017. The DENC issued a notice to declare the properties as nature reserves in September 2018, and the formal proclamation of the Gamsberg Nature Reserve was gazetted on 5 August 2019.
VZI will provide a management fee of a maximum of R3.5 million a year – subject to an annual increase of 6% or CPIX, whichever is the lower – for the properties acquired for a period of up to 10 years after we apply for a closure certificate.
As part of the offset agreement, VZI will also be responsible for providing funds for land management for the full offset area for the life of the operations and for a period of up to 10 years after VZI applies for a closure certificate.
Further, VZI has partnered with DENC and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to monitor the Gamsberg Biodiversity Offset Agreement. This work is ongoing.