Building climate change resilience
While climate change is a global challenge, its impacts have more devasting effects on developing countries such as Lesotho.
The exposed, high-altitude environment of the Lesotho Northern Highlands is no stranger to extreme weather events. However, in recent years, both the intensity and frequency of these events have increased. In response to this challenge, Lesotho has formulated a National Climate Change Policy with the vision of "building climate change resilience and low-carbon pathways for a prosperous, sustainable economy and environment."
Gem Diamonds' Letšeng mine has been proactive in countering the effects of extreme climatic conditions. It has numerous operational and contingency plans and processes in place to address such events. Given the vulnerability of the downstream catchment and resident population, Letšeng places a high priority on the design, operation and monitoring of its tailings and water storage facilities to withstand extreme weather events, applying relevant international standards in this respect.
Moreover, Letšeng recognises the need to address the causes of climate change through reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) and hence its carbon footprint. Various initiatives to reduce energy usage and harmful emissions have been implemented on-site (see our environmental pillar for more information). In addition, and given the increasing momentum of climate change events taking place worldwide, Letšeng has identified the need for a focused climate change adaptation strategy and plan (CCAP).
The CCAP has been formulated in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Paris Agreement, the Lesotho National Climate Change Policy, and the Letšeng Social and Environmental Management Plan, and will be updated as these agreements and plans evolve.
The CCAP focuses on two main areas. Firstly, ensuring business continuity during operations, which includes maintaining our legal and social licence to operate through adapting to climate change effects and minimising GHG production; and secondly, ensuring a safe and sustainable post-closure end land use, which can withstand the impact of extreme weather events and meets the objectives for mine closure, as embodied in Letšeng's 2019 Rehabilitation and Mine Closure Plan.
Furthermore, Gem Diamonds recognises that Letšeng does not operate in isolation, but is very much part of a regional and national society and economy and has a strong social responsibility, particularly concerning the vulnerable communities among which it is located. The CCAP also seeks to explore ways in which the impact of climate change on these vulnerable communities may be mitigated through assistance from the Company's employment, communication, primary healthcare outreach and CSR policies and programmes.