Cementing a groundbreaking Partnership
Conservation has undergone a paradigm shift in recent years in recognition that conservation cannot only occur on land owned by statutory conservation bodies. Stewardship was initiated by CapeNature (Western Cape Nature Conservation Board) and aims to ensure the conservation of properties of high conservation importance through the signing of contracts regarding the management of the land and imposing restrictions on further development. The Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve is implementing the Stewardship Programme on the Saldanha Peninsula.
One of the most important sites identified on the Saldanha Peninsula is owned by AfriSam. Previously known as Holcim South Africa, AfriSam is the second largest cement producer in South Africa and is a B-BBEE Level 2 contributor.
The site contains substantial quality limestone resources for cement production in the Western Cape.The site also contains pristine vegetation of exceptional conservation value – classified as Saldanha Limestone Strandveld. This vegetation type is restricted to the Saldanha Peninsula and is very limited in extent and is classified as Endangered by the NBSA. The total percentage conserved is 0.1% (small patches in the West Coast National Park).
Due to the unique substrate, the vegetation type contains many plant species that are only found in this vegetation type, many of which are rare and endangered. AfriSam (at the time known as Alpha) undertook an EIA process in 1998 for the proposed mining, cement factory and associated infrastructure. The project was suspended in the early 2000's due to the imposition of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) and the uncertainty of how this would impact on the company's business model. Discussion around a conservation offset for the site has been discussed for several years with various parties.
The Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve (CWCBR) initiated discussions with AfriSam in late 2008. The property owned by AfriSam (through its wholly owned subsidiary, National Portland Cement) consists of 10 farms encompassing an area of 1 499.6 ha, situated on a limestone ridge stretching from the Vredenburg- Trekoskraal Road to Saldanha Bay.
Following negotiations with AfriSam, they have agreed to set aside the area to the north of the Jacobsbaai Road for conservation. This section of the site occupies 522.25 ha. The site has undergone a review process and based on the conservation value was awarded contract nature reserve status, which is the highest level of stewardship. Management of the site was an issue of concern raised in the negotiations. Most of the existing stewardship sites are on operational farms with permanent residents, where the conservation management actions are implemented by the landowner as a component of their normal farm operations.
The AfriSam site is unoccupied and no activities are taking place at the site. The site is managed from an office in Cape Town located +-150 km away. AfriSam is currently undertaking an EIA for the establishment of a cement factory at Saldanha and will consider additional conservation areas once the proposed mining footprint has been finalised.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Concurrent to the stewardship negotiations, AfriSam has initiated a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Project for the site. Current legislation makes provision for CSR. AfriSam recognises the "triple bottom line" of sustainable development as a core component of their CSR i.e. economic, environmental and social. To this end, AfriSam has provided bursaries for students to study a Diploma in Natural Resource Management at the South African Wildlife College (SAWC). Beneficiaries are sourced from the communities surrounding AfriSam's activities. Students from the Saldanha area were sourced for studies for the year 2009. Two beneficiaries were identified through a rigorous selection process conducted by the SAWC, the Saldanha Bay Municipality and AfriSam.
The recipients were Nolan Stevens and Suzette Pieterse. For the first time AfriSam had an opportunity to employ the bursary beneficiaries as there was a conservation area where they could work, which also provided a solution for the management of the site. The graduates require supervision, and their services are also utilised for clearing of alien vegetation in AfriSam's active mining operations south of the Jacobs Bay road. AfriSam Conservation Managers Accordingly, AfriSam proposed that the CWCBR be responsible for the management of the graduates with funding provided by AfriSam. This proposal was the most beneficial solution for both parties concerned. This solution allowed for the graduates to be supervised and managed by personnel within the area and with relevant experience to manage this work. The addition of staff within the CWCBR also contributed to an increase in its capacity. The graduates started working at the CWCBR on 1 March 2010.
The project has grown from strength to strength since it's initiation in 2010. Activities that have thus far been initiated have included: fixed point photography monitoring; learning the local plant species focusing on the rare and endangered species (in close collaboration with Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW)) and searching for new plant populations; daily monitoring and patrolling of the site; clearing of a historical waste dump on site; and initiation of an Eco-Club consisting of learners from the surrounding schools and communities. The project welcomed a new staff member this year, Thembi Mgwetyana and moved into new offices at Oorlogsvlei, Saldanha Bay, which are shared with Saldanha Bay Tourism Organisation.
The project also has the potential to include an additional nature reserve into the project. The site (Remainder of the Farm Kliprug 282) was purchased by WWF and will be entitled the Jacobs Bay Nature Reserve. The staff have also been providing assistance to our partners e.g. Darling Wildflower Society managing the Darling municipal reserves, !Khwa ttu San Cultural Centre.
1The arrangement is unique in that it is an example of a major industrial/mining company investing CSR capital into a conservation project on land that they own that was originally purchased with the intention to mine
2 The site is also the first industrial/mining site to enter into a stewardship agreement – and additionally the highest level of protection -contract nature reserve
3The project also aligns with ideals of empowerment of the local community, by educating, enabling and employing members of the local community