Industry association the Aggregate and Sand Producers Association of Southern Africa (Aspasa) is in the process of completely redeveloping its renowned environmental audit system, creating a robust new system that is more user friendly and better aligned with the requirements of smaller-scale surface miners.
In contrast to the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), or strict legal audits, the latest incarnation of environmental audits is being developed by mine and quarry managers from within the association’s membership, explains Aspasa director Nico Pienaar.
He says that the audits rely on inclusive methods and focus on remedying, rather than punishment, in an effort to encourage members to confront issues rather than disguising or ignoring them.
“We as managers want to feel it is our programme, we want it to help and guide us and be practical to implement and manage the requirements. Simultaneously, it must also ensure we are doing the right thing and are legally compliant and must cover all aspects of environmental management on our type of mines. The old audits have stood us in good stead for many years, but now it is time for change.”
The association, having pioneered the idea of a compulsory environmental audit system known as the About Face Audit Programme more than 30 years ago, has since won local and international acclaim for its programmes and is regarded as a global leader in ensuring effective environmental management.
The programme rapidly rescued the reputation of quarrying and smaller-scale surface mining, which up until then, was known for scarring landscapes, waterways and rendering tracts of land unusable for future generations.
As a result, the association currently enjoys a vibrant and growing membership and enjoys close relationships with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, Minerals Council South Africa, as well as other government departments and industry bodies concerned with mining and environmental affairs, Pienaar notes.
“When we started we had little information to work from, it was complicated and experts were scarce. The scope of environmental management is wide and finding a person who knows everything about environmental affairs is near impossible.
Aspasa mimicked the US programme and called it ‘About Face RSA’, however it was decided that, in South Africa, the focus would be more comprehensive, rather than focusing on “beautification” alone.
“The compilation of audit requirements and checks were left to the auditors, who decided how they wanted it done. The audits initially pushed ISO requirements, which later moved to a more industry-focused tick-box-type approach,” notes Pienaar.
He adds that the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution means that Aspasa must re-evaluate audits.
The new audits will incorporate the latest thinking and harness all available tools to ensure that every aspect of environmental management is covered and that the audits are easy to follow, fair, transparent and in line with all legal and other requirements.