Building climate change resilience
Our operations are located in extreme areas, which makes us susceptible to extreme weather events. Increased and/or extreme climatic events can be symptomatic of climate change. Therefore, any fluctuations in temperature associated with climate change could have severe repercussions for our operating conditions because of their potential to disrupt and suspend mining, interrupt transport schedules, upend our rehabilitation efforts, and compromise our workforce and PAC safety. Many of the root causes of climate change have also been linked to the increased prevalence of diseases and viruses.
The Letšeng mine experiences frequent extreme weather conditions, including blizzards, extreme cold and snow, due to the exposed, high altitude of the Lesotho Northern Highlands. The intensity and frequency of these events have increased over the years. The current climate-related challenge at Letšeng is water management due to the three-year drought plaguing the area. Our Ghaghoo mine is located on Botswana’s Kalahari Game Reserve, which experiences extreme year-round heat and occasional flash floods.
We adopted a climate change adaptation plan that considers the Paris Agreement; a UN treaty under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The goal of this plan is to reduce our environmental impact – achieved by reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; identifying carbon-neutral energy solutions; outlining the responsible management and efficient use of resources. This is to prevent any impacts on production and define the long-term use of the land to ensure resources are used responsibly and sustainably so that the land can be restored, mitigating any environmental impacts from our mining activities.
Given the increasing momentum of climate change events worldwide, Letšeng has implemented a focused climate change adaptation strategy and plan (CCAP). The CCAP was formulated in the context of the UNFCCC, Paris Agreement, Lesotho National Climate Change Policy and the Letšeng Social and Environmental Management Plan. The CCAP focuses on two main areas, business continuity and providing a safe and sustainable post-mine-closure land use plan that can withstand the impact of extreme weather events. These will be updated as they evolve.
We are mindful of the risks presented by climate change and its potential impact on our operations. Therefore, we seek efficient ways to minimise our emissions and reduce our operations' environmental impact. Our business continuity plans also work to mitigate these extreme weather events' effects to prevent unnecessary risks for our people and operating environments. While climate change is a global challenge, its impacts have more devasting effects on developing countries such as Lesotho.
Should an extreme weather event occur, like a snowstorm that prevents access to the Letšeng mine or disrupts our energy supply, we have generators and a two-week supply of diesel stored on the mine. We also have a two-week supply of food should the mine be snowed in. Our medical teams are equipped to deal with extreme weather conditions and received extensive training for high-altitude rescues and medical treatment under extreme conditions.
Our water management systems consider potential natural events. Lesotho’s severe drought reinforced the real impacts of climate change on the region. We implemented water-saving, recycling and catchment initiatives to preserve water and ensure it is treated as a precious resource at all times. At both mines, dam and storage facilities are managed so that there is excess capacity to handle a sudden influx of water without compromising the structures' safety.
We recognise that Letšeng does not operate in isolation but is very much part of the regional and national society and economy, and has a strong social responsibility, particularly concerning the vulnerable communities where it operates. The mine has been proactive in countering the effects of extreme climate 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.