Our pillars


Our commitment to responsible environmental stewardship and the UN SDGs compels us to better understand and manage our impact on the natural environment, mitigating climate change and other environmental risks so that we leave a meaningful legacy for future generations.

Related sustainability principles

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Optimising socio-economic benefit

Related UN SDGs

The following UN SDGs relate to our environmental pillar:


Refer to our Annual Report and Accounts 2022 and Our Approach to Climate Change Report 2022 for more information on our approach to integrating these UN SDGs into our business operations.

Snapshot of our performance

  • Zero major or significant
    environmental incidents

    for the 14th and 9th consecutive year, respectively
  • International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM) dam safety management framework implemented
  • US$0.8 million invested in environmental protection during 2022 (2021: US$0.9 million)
  • US$15.4 million
    environmental rehabilitation provision (2021: US$14.9 million)
  • No fines for
    environmental transgressions
    or non-compliance with host country legislation for the 13th consecutive year
  • Decarbonisation and carbon-pricing
    strategies and targets adopted
  • Social and environmental
    management plan

    (SEMP) updated and audited
  • ISO 14001
    (Environmental Management)
    accreditation retained
  • Won Best Climate-Related reporting (small cap) at the 2022 ESG Investing Awards
  • 6.4 million m3 of water recycled (2021: 8.9 million m3)
  • Total carbon footprint reduced from 153 863 tCO2e in 2021 to 112 827 tCO2e in 2022
  • Won the Responsible Water Management and Protection of Biodiversity
    awards at the Investing in African Mining Indaba 2022

Our goals

  • Understanding and reducing our carbon footprint.
  • Improving our energy consumption efficiency.
  • Managing the effects of extreme weather events on our operations.
  • Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Advancing projects aimed at conserving water.

Our outlook

We remain committed to environmental responsibility, including rigorous and ongoing monitoring and reduction of our environmental footprint, reporting according to the recommendations of the TCFD and upholding our commitment to the UN SDGs.

In 2023, we will monitor and manage our climate-related exposure and measure our performance against our decarbonisation targets in line with our TCFD roadmap. We will advance our bioremediation strategy, implement and track fuel consumption, emission and cost-reduction initiatives, and maintain stringent management of our water and TSFs.

Material Matters

Our context

We strive to responsibly manage our environmental impacts by measuring, monitoring and minimising our consumption, considering our water and carbon footprints and waste within our value chain. We ensure responsible consumption with the utmost respect for the natural resources we need.We are working within our value chain to identify initiatives that reduce our costs, resource consumption and carbon, energy and water footprints.

Refer to Our Approach to Climate Change Report 2022 for details on our water, carbon and energy footprints.


To ensure responsible stewardship of the environment around us, we measure, monitor and continually strive to minimise our consumption. Our carbon footprint is an important aspect of our environmental stewardship.

Our Letšeng mine does not have wide-scale access to renewable energy sources, such as hydro, wind or solar power in Lesotho. We therefore require innovative and well thought out energy and carbon initiatives to ensure a sustainable solution for the Group.


Letšeng’s mine operations are 3 275 metres above sea level, on the watershed between the Khubelu and Matsoku drainages. These drainages flow into the proposed Polihali Dam and the Katse Dam, respectively. To ensure clean water flows into these dams and to our PACs, water management at Letšeng is prioritised throughout all aspects of our value chain. This water management takes place in the context of increasingly dynamic weather systems which we expect to further intensify as a result of climate change.

Letšeng experienced a severe four-year drought which ended in 2021. During this water-constricted period, a significant water conservation strategy was developed and implemented throughout the operation. High levels of precipitation since the drought resulted in the mine’s freshwater Mothusi Dam returning to 88% capacity by the end of 2022. The Letšeng mine currently has approximately nine years of available fresh water at current usage rates.

Patterns of extended droughts interrupted by short but extensive precipitation events align with the weather patterns predicted by climate change models.


Responsible waste management plays a significant role in the sustainability of our business and the long-term protection of our environment and surrounding PACs. We ensure the responsible management and disposal of mineral and non-mineral waste generated by our operations.

Our approach


Our goal is to improve our energy usage efficiencies, introduce renewable energy sources to our operations and reduce our carbon emissions. We work with operations to identify and implement initiatives aimed at reducing costs, improving resource use consumption and carbon, energy and water footprints. Initiatives are primarily focused on reducing our Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emissions, including mobile and stationary fuel combustion and grid electricity, representing approximately 89% of the Group’s total carbon footprint.

Our recently developed decarbonisation strategy considers all stakeholders and aligns with our goal of mining responsibly and minimising our consumption and our impact on the environment. We ensure that our carbon footprint mitigation initiatives remain relevant and progressive, and we measure and report on these biannually, most recently in Our Approach to Climate Change Report 2022.

Hydrocarbon management

Letšeng operates on the principle of zero oil contamination to the environment and, accordingly, hydrocarbon management is a high priority. Workshops and diesel depots are connected to oil separators to ensure minimal contamination of water and soil. If an accidental oil spill occurs, the contaminated soil is collected and treated at an on-site soil treatment and remediation facility.


Gem Diamonds has prioritised the stewardship of water through a comprehensive water management strategy at its operations. Our responsible approach to water management has matured to align with appropriate best practice standards and operational trends in water use and impact, and we prioritise the needs of our stakeholders.

Letšeng has a comprehensive water monitoring and stewardship plan, including a detailed water monitoring protocol for analysing water quality on site and downstream, and monitoring consumption volumes through mining, treatment and other site projects and activities.

We strive to minimise and manage the unavoidable impacts of mining activities on the natural environment by measuring (through independent water quality assessments in and around the mine lease area), monitoring and minimising our consumption, and considering our water footprint and waste within our value chain. Letšeng’s detailed water management policy clearly sets out our adherence to best practice and operational trends in water use and impact (refer to www.gemdiamonds.com).

We actively minimise freshwater use by recycling and reusing water on site, recovering run-off water, managing the impact and flow of stormwater, and attempting at all times to lower our water consumption. Our recently improved stormwater management system is designed to catch and redirect clean stormwater drainage into our freshwater dam. We continually explore additional catchment and freshwater supply opportunities for our operation and PACs.

The implementation of our revised stormwater management plan significantly limited the operational reliance on natural water catchments and safeguarded our water resources. As part of this plan, we implemented site-wide redirection measures and we perform monthly stormwater infrastructure inspections.

The management of our TSFs and freshwater dams is aligned with the ICMM’s GISTM, as adopted in 2021 (refer to our case study).


We continually seek ways to improve our waste reduction efforts to minimise our impact on the natural environment and PACs. Our mining operations have implemented waste management plans in line with the waste hierarchy: reduce, reuse, recycle and, as a last option, dispose. Non-mineral waste generated at our operations is separated at source and managed in accordance with the implemented waste management policies.

Our operations comply with the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste. We ensure that relevant permits are in place when hazardous waste is moved from Lesotho to South Africa, as there are currently no hazardous waste disposal sites in Lesotho. Hazardous waste is responsibly disposed of in South Africa at certified sites which issue certificates of safe disposal. Medical waste (from on-site clinics) is incinerated on site, which reduces the cost and emissions associated with transportation of waste to the nearest alternative incineration site.

Mineral waste

Operationally, we continue to look at ways to minimise the mining and movement of mineral waste, including our steeper slope project and shorter haulage distance initiatives, which have shown great success.

We retain our mineral waste on site at Letšeng in structures that comply with in-country requirements and international best practice.

Refer to our tailings management case study in our for more information.

Our performance


In 2022, we recorded a 41 036 tCO2e annual reduction in total Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. The reduction was mainly due to the mining optimisation initiatives we implemented during Q4 2021, such as reduced waste tonnes mined, steeper slopes and the 30% reduction in mine waste hauling distances. These initiatives lower our carbon emissions through reduced fuel consumption.

To decrease costs, diesel consumption and carbon emissions, and increase mining efficiencies, we implemented new, and improved existing initiatives in 2022:

  • Our focused waste rock dumping strategy reduced hauling distances and associated diesel consumption, lowering costs and associated carbon emissions;
  • We implemented pit wall steepening in the Main pit, reducing the volumes of waste rock to be moved. This lowered costs and reduced fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
  • Our reduction in explosives use lowered direct emissions and reduced the production of nitrates, supporting our environmental and water management goals.

Refer to Our Approach to Climate Change Report 2022 for details on our carbon emission performance metrics and additional information on our carbon initiatives and footprint.


Water-usage reduction initiatives

This past year saw an increased focus on water usage efficiency within our business processes. We revised our water-use reduction strategy and implemented water-saving systems, including:

  • improving stormwater management to minimise the potential flow of stormwater into mining and other operational areas;
  • improving the pit-dewatering system to reduce the water-residency time in the pits;
  • adopting a “closed-loop” return water system for makeup water required for processing activities; and
  • implementing improved water treatment methodologies.

Refer to our Annual Reportand Accounts 2022 and Our Approach to Climate Change Report 2022 for our water footprint and consumption performance metrics.


We continued our waste management and awareness campaigns, which have proven effective. We commenced a “no single-use plastics” initiative on site in October 2022. As part of this initiative, we provided branded reusable carry bags for staff to replace single-use plastic bags. The project reflected immediate success, with single-use plastics usage dropping significantly across the site.

We conducted an emissions survey to monitor our waste incinerator performance and introduced corrective measures to improve monitoring and combustion efficiency.

Our context

Due to remote locations, our operations are susceptible to frequent weather events such as snowstorms, extreme temperatures, excessive rainfall and/or flash floods and drought. These events are exacerbated by climate change. Lesotho frequently experiences localised floods that damage basic service infrastructure in often impoverished communities; 75% of the Lesotho population resides in rural areas.

Human-induced climate change affects weather patterns across the globe. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group 1 predicts that global temperatures will exceed a 1.5˚C increase within the next two decades.

Understanding climate-related risks and potential impacts is key to assessing our organisational exposure and resilience to climate change. Additionally, this knowledge guides us when updating business continuity plans and operational strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change-related risks.

Our approach

We are cognisant of the risks presented by climate change and their potential impact on our operations and stakeholders. This year, the Board adopted Gem Diamonds’ decarbonisation strategy, a commitment to a 30% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030, and a carbon-pricing model that will underpin the integration and assessment of decarbonisation into our operations and all projects.

We continued the implementation of our three-year plan towards full TCFD compliance. The objectives set out in the first phase of the roadmap were completed in 2021, and we delivered the phase 2 objectives in 2022. The final objectives in phase 3 will be completed in 2023.

Phase 1 (2021)
Build the foundations to support meaningful science-based decision-making
Phase 2 (2022)
Understand the risks we face and reflect on our organisational resilience
Phase 3 (2023)
Establish clear metrics and targets for monitoring and managing our exposure

Refer to Our Approach to Climate Change Report 2022 for our detailed TCFD reporting.

In 2022, our work focused on mitigating the Group’s climate change impact by reducing Scope 1 carbon emissions, reducing our grid electricity consumption, and assessing viable renewable energy options.

We improved business resilience through adequate assessment of climate change risks and opportunities, by understanding adaptation measures available for the Group in response to climate risks, and by more effectively managing the physical risks related to climate change and the location of our operations – including extreme weather events on site.

We view climate change through two lenses, in line with the TCFD framework’s recommendations. Firstly, we ensure operational resilience and continuity regarding physical risks, including extreme weather events. Secondly, we are preparing for a just transition to a low-carbon economy.

The last three years were marked by an acceleration of climate change-related information and regulations. The Group embraced this acceleration and is actively incorporating regulations and information into relevant climate change strategies and plans, such as the Letšeng climate change adaptation and water management plans. These updates include specific physical climate change-related risks identified through our climate change scenario analysis.

Our two mines are located in extreme environments, and we have been managing and responding to extreme natural events since 2006. Our operational business continuity plans, disaster management plans, and all other operational procedures and systems are informed by the weather experienced at these locations.

The Letšeng operation maintains a two-week supply of food and diesel in case extreme weather disrupts access and/or energy supply. Additionally, our medical teams are equipped with extensive training in high-altitude rescues and emergency treatment under extreme conditions.

Our water management systems also consider potential natural events. Dams and storage facilities are managed so that there is excess capacity to handle a sudden influx of water without compromising safety.

At the beginning of 2021, a four-year prolonged drought in Lesotho ended with localised flooding and persistent heavy precipitation which continued in 2022. Our water management strategy prioritises water saving, recycling and catchment efficiency initiatives to preserve water and ensure it is treated as a precious resource.

Concurrently, our teams respond swiftly to assist communities during periods of flood or drought. The increased frequency of localised flooding and prolonged drought illustrates the potential impacts of climate change in the region around our Letšeng operation.

Our performance

We implemented phase 2 of our three-phase TCFD roadmap with the following milestones:

  • Our carbon-pricing model was finalised and adopted by the Board.
  • Our decarbonisation strategy was finalised and adopted by the Board.
  • We set a target of 30% Scope 1 and 2 emissions reduction by 2030.
  • We implemented initiatives to improve efficiencies and reduce energy use.
  • We augmented our climate-related Board and management structures.
  • We further strengthened our enterprise risk management process, and expanded our assessment of physical and transition risks.
  • Certain executives and senior management participated in the UN Global Compact Climate Ambition Accelerator programme.

Our context

A consistent and stable supply of power is critical for our mining operations. The Letšeng operation accounts for the vast majority of the Group’s energy consumption in terms of fossil fuel-based energy and grid-based electricity. Scope 2 energy consumption for the Group is primarily driven by grid electricity.

Letšeng receives its electricity supply from the South African grid, which has been experiencing load shedding – planned interruptions to electricity supply – since 2007. Load shedding and grid instability affects the Letšeng operation, as the electricity supply to Lesotho is cut periodically as part of the load shedding schedule in South Africa.

The amount and severity of load shedding are increasing steadily. South Africa experienced 207 days of load shedding in 2022, compared to 75 days in 2021 and 54 in 2020. The availability of a sustainable and reliable power supply has therefore become our principal risk.

Our energy use is directly related to our production of carbon emissions, not only to costs incurred. Our energy-saving initiatives are increasingly synchronous with our emissions reduction initiatives, and our planning around energy and climate-related concerns is progressively integrated.

Our approach

A generator-based back-up power supply system is in place to ensure a consistent supply of energy to our mining operations and associated infrastructure. The generators are operated when regional lightning strikes or Eskom-related electricity load shedding impacts production.

Part of the work that the Group is doing to reduce its carbon emissions lies in identifying opportunities relating to energy and electricity that will assist us as we strive to decarbonise the business and evaluate which opportunities are feasible for the Group to implement. We determined an internal carbon price to enable us to assess the impact of these, and other opportunities, on our strategy, operations, projects, financial position and performance.

We recognise the need to appropriately transition to energy sources that are less carbon-intensive than the traditional fossil fuel-based energy sources currently powering our operations.

Refer to Our Approach to Climate Change Report 2022 for information on our carbon-pricing model, decarbonisation strategy and energy consumption performance.

As our operations move towards lower carbon emissions targets, we will continue evaluating power sources and technology to reduce carbon emissions and secure stable and cost-effective energy supply.

We are investigating renewable energy alternatives and have conducted several studies to determine the viability thereof. While there are significant challenges to full-scale adoption of renewables, including its potential impact on biodiversity, location-specific irradiance and the extremely low temperatures on site, we are actively exploring all possibilities.

In line with our decarbonisation roadmap, our path towards targeted emissions reduction involves a phased approach, beginning with identifying efficiencies in our processes and technology and reducing energy consumption.

Refer to Our Approach to Climate Change Report 2022 for information on our decarbonisation strategy.

Energy demand reduction and decarbonisation initiatives

We have adopted a bottom-up approach to embed energy-reduction and decarbonisation awareness across the Group, with a series of workshops and presentations to explain to employees the concept of carbon footprint and the importance of carbon reduction.

Education around climate change and decarbonisation continued throughout 2022, and the identification and planning of emission-reduction initiatives took place at departmental level.

Our energy consumption prioritisation programme determines which operational elements can run on generator power when grid energy is unavailable. Energy availability is prioritised for essential operational elements, resulting in less diesel usage and lower costs and emissions.

Managing demand and consumption through behaviour-based initiatives stands to positively impact our costs and emissions, and embed climate-related thinking among employees.

Our performance

  • Ensured constant energy supply to Letšeng through a diesel generator power plant.
  • Implemented an energy demand management programme.
  • Established an Energy and Decarbonisation Committee.
  • Reduced our year-on-year energy consumption by 27%.

To mitigate the risk of power interruptions, we ensure that load shedding schedules and regional weather prediction reports are integrated into our production planning to facilitate effective change-overs to generator power.

Refer to our Annual Report and Accounts 2022 and Our Approach to Climate Change Report 2022 for our energy footprint performance metrics.

Our context

Gem Diamonds has developed and implemented an innovative strategy to sustain biodiversity within the mine lease area and preserve the natural environment to promote the ecosystem services found in these unique bioregions.

The Letšeng mine is situated on the edge of the Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Project and the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage Site in the highlands of Lesotho. Mines have finite lifespans, and it is imperative that, as the mine owner, we take responsibility for protecting the biodiversity of indigenous flora and fauna surrounding our mine post mine closure.

Through our closure planning, rehabilitation strategy and biodiversity management plans, we ensure that biodiversity is included in our financial planning, mine closure and long-term strategic objectives, and that adequate financial provision is made for rehabilitation. Our mine closure plans consider the socio-economic status and impacts of potential mine closure on our PACs and our environmental effects.

Our approach

Letšeng is committed to mitigating environmental damage, protecting biodiversity and enhancing conservation efforts in the areas in which we operate.

We collaborate extensively with our host countries, PACs, regulators, scientists and other industry stakeholders to implement practical environmental protection strategies. Ultimately, we aim to contribute meaningfully to environmental and socio-economic sustainability and prosperity for our host countries, PACs and business. Bioremediation is the cornerstone of our water quality conservation efforts and a critical part of our stakeholder relationships.

Our biodiversity risk assessments consider all threatened, migratory and endemic species and regionally relevant ecosystem services, such as rangeland, wetlands, grasslands and water. We implemented the biodiversity offset strategy at Letšeng to mitigate mining-related impacts on biodiversity. The offset strategy includes:

  • no-go areas protected from development;
  • an indigenous plant garden;
  • an artificial wetland construction programme;
  • a native seed propagation and rehabilitation trial programme;
  • a concurrent rehabilitation plan; and
  • a grazing management plan in collaboration with subsistence farmers in the region.

Our offset strategy is supported by a comprehensive monitoring programme, enabling us to record and track species numbers and diversity within the mine lease area and region.

Our operations have mature and detailed SEMPs that underpin our biodiversity and conservation efforts. These plans consider all threatened, migratory and endemic species within our mine lease areas and the regional ecosystems.

All potential biodiversity and environmental impacts of our mining activities are assessed as part of our social and environmental impact assessment (SEIA) process. Our SEMPs consider the management and mitigation of direct, indirect and cumulative impacts. External biodiversity specialists developed Operational Biodiversity Management Plans for Letšeng, which are reviewed annually.

We have designed and appraised post-mining closure and rehabilitation requirements and are undertaking concurrent rehabilitation at our Letšeng operation. Our rehabilitation trials test various methods to find the optimal techniques for soil stability and plant growth at Letšeng’s high altitude.

Our performance

Biodiversity and veld quality monitoring takes place every two years, with the last complete cycle occurring in 2021. A positive trend in the total number of species, including Red Data and restricted species, has been recorded over the past five years. Our operations are noted as having a minimal impact on biodiversity on site.