Authors: Burke, A

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Burke, A 2008, 'Creating a Positive Legacy in a Biodiversity Hotspot', in AB Fourie, M Tibbett, I Weiersbye & P Dye (eds), Mine Closure 2008: Proceedings of the Third International Seminar on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 377-384,

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Placed in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, the Succulent Karoo Biome, and a emerging National Park, Namdeb Diamond Corporation faces the challenge now to contribute significantly to Namibia’s economy, while committed to preparing the land for a future land use. Rehabilitating 100 years of mining legacy which created one of the world’s largest mining footprints, is no trivial task. The magnitude of the rehabilitation is enormous, as waste accumulated within the main mining area which is fenced because of security concerns, and to date very little redundant infrastructure has been demolished and disposed off. Thus disposal procedures must be developed which meet legal standards, and, where feasible, international best practice, while taking the remoteness of the sites into account. In terms of footprint, Namdeb’s is by far the largest of the De Beers mines, with the largest part of the footprint composed of excavated areas, overburden and tailings dumps. A pragmatic approach, taking into account future land use, the needs of the environment, legal requirements and stakeholder views, has resulted in an achievable environmental rehabilitation plan which is presently being implemented. The major rehabilitation tasks can be divided into practical categories for implementation, namely: infrastructure, pollution, landscape and biodiversity. A rehabilitation plan was developed based on a rehabilitation framework, and a programme is currently being compiled, outlining time frames and budgets for individual tasks. Rehabilitation tasks include demolition of redundant infrastructure, clean-up of all historic pollution and waste sites, reshaping of unstable and visually unacceptable landforms and re-vegetating in priority areas. Close to 20% of the mine footprint is proposed to be re-shaped. Regrowth indicates that natural recovery of disturbed areas is underway and interventions related to landscaping and re-vegetating can focus on key areas of importance to conservation and future tourism. Closure costing, development of completion criteria and rehabilitation monitoring and evaluation are on-going tasks which require regular review. In order to achieve sustainability for the mining town of Oranjemund, developments independent of mining are being investigated and encouraged. A social programme is being developed to support the change from mining to alternative employment. Land-use suggestions range from tourism-based mine and Sperrgebiet tours and resort facilities, to mariculture in mined-out ponds, and irrigation farming along the Orange River. These developments will need to be aligned with the vision for the future Sperrgebiet National Park and discussions and debate between various stakeholders is on-going. This paper discusses the strategy, process and way forward sharing the lessons learnt with practitioners in the mining sector facing similar challenges elsewhere.

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