Our environmental policy provides the fundamental principles which guide the management of environmental matters across our operations and establishes a framework for defining strategy and setting objectives and targets.

We are committed to enhancing our environmental management systems and improving our environmental performance and ultimately reducing our impact on the environment, on the communities around us and on natural resource consumption.

Environment [icon]

Mining companies in South Africa are regulated by an extensive framework of environmental legislation, including the National Environmental Management Act, 107 of 1998 (NEMA), and other environmental management acts which focus on waste, air quality, biodiversity, water and heritage resources.

Northam operations hold several licences for their activities, including environmental authorisations under NEMA, water use licences, waste management licences and an atmospheric emission licence (Zondereinde mineral processing operations). We also hold biodiversity and heritage permits where required.

The environmental regulation framework is dynamic. We keep abreast of developments and amendments though our appointed legal counsel and the Minerals Council of South Africa. Internal and third-party compliance assessments are undertaken on a regular basis to review compliance with environmental authorisations and management plans, alongside water use, waste management and atmospheric emissions licences. Independent compliance assessments are submitted to the relevant authorities to meet mandatory reporting requirements.

Environmental incident reporting
Zondereinde Eland Booysendal
Reportable environmental incidents1 2 7
Non-reportable environmental incidents 38 35 15
Total environmental incidents 40 42 15

1 An environmental incident which is required to be reported to the relevant authorities (refer to Northam’s sustainable development reporting guidelines

No non-monetary sanctions (including directives in response to a contravention of environmental laws and regulations) or significant fines were issued against Northam’s operations by authorities for non-compliance with environmental laws and/or regulations.


ISO 14001 [logo]
Zondereinde: certified to ISO14001 standard

Booysendal: targeting certification to ISO14001 standard by end 2023

Eland: targeting certification to ISO14001 standard in 2025

More on ISO

ISO 14001 sets out the criteria for an environmental management system. It maps out a framework for an organisation to set up an effective environmental management system.

The uncertainty in the South African energy space has a defining influence on Northam’s climate and energy strategies and approach. Reliable energy supply is a non-negotiable and has prompted proactive and vigorous investigations into alternative energy sources and energy efficiency opportunities.

Given that the bulk of the electricity that Eskom generates comes with a relatively high GHG footprint due to its reliance on coal-fired electrical power, Northam’s ability to reduce scope 2 GHG emissions is significantly compromised. It is our intention to support the South African government’s initiatives towards a just transition to a lower-carbon economy, where possible, as recognised by the 2022 Glasgow Climate Pact.


Our response to the SA energy backdrop and establishing a low-carbon future is to implement GHG-reduction targets and a renewable energy roadmap. By 2030 we will have reduced the quantum of GHG emissions by 27% and the intensity by 60%, against a 2019 baseline.

We have made good progress in drafting our roadmap to achieve these targets, which will include a combination of onsite solar installations and two wind energy projects.

Progress against objectives

  • Development of energy policy and strategy to address energy security and costs
  • Use of high-carbon grid electricity will reduce over the next three years in line with the growth of wind and solar power capacity
  • Growing wind and solar capacity – reducing reliance on high-carbon grid electricity
  • Study launched to identify a material emissions inventory for scope 3GHGs
  • Total energy intensity improved by 32% to 0.55 GJ/tonne milled (2019 baselineL 0.82GJ/tonne milled

Latest CDP response

CDP Climate Change Response 2023 (PDF - 328.72 KB)

Water resources are protected, managed and regulated by the National Water Act. Compliance requirements are stipulated in the Integrated Water Use Licences (IWUL) and Integrated Waste and Water Management Plans. These licences are regularly updated and amended, as required.Mining operations use large amounts of water, mainly in extraction activities. Thus, water supply is considered to be an operational risk, and water conservation and security of supply are critical to business continuity.

All our operations are located in water stressed regions, which could be affected by the effects of climate change. Our objective is to reduce reliance on potable and bulk water supplies and to maximise re-use and recycling.

Our upgraded integrated and dynamic water balance models are used to monitor water use and recycling at each site and to identify the best options for improving water conservation and demand management, and to assess various climate change risk scenarios. They also allow us to test a range of strategies and scenarios to identify opportunities for more efficient and sustainable water use, and incorporate predicted climate change impacts.

Progress against objectives

  • 86% of total water usage was recycled in 2023
  • Since 2018 water intensity has improved by 58% to 3.4 kl/tonne milled
  • proactively pursuing water security by partnering with relevant authorities

Latest CDP response

CDP Water Security Response 2023 (PDF - 227.92 KB)
2023 2022 2021 2020 2019
Potable water from external sources 3 597 3 797 4 935 3 416 3 691
Fissure water 1 056 1 500 1 022 209 1 278
Borehole water 665 730 1 116 2 183 52
Water recycled in process 31 737 32 114 32 002 28 092 28 979
Total water usage 37 055 38 142 39 076 33 900 34 000
Potable intensity 0.34        
Total water use intensity 3.5        
% water recycled* 86% 84 82 83 85

We recognise the potential adverse effects of mining operations on the integrity of our host environments and their endemic biodiversity. We are committed to protecting and contributing to South Africa’s abundant and unique biodiversity. Managing the potential impact of our mining activities is integral to the day-to-day environmental management activities across the operations.

The legal environmental regime in the South African mining sector includes rigorous authorisation and permitting processes. Preservation and promotion of biodiversity, along with resource conservation and land management are managed at the operational level and are governed by management plans, frameworks and other guidelines. Where possible, we minimise our operations to mitigate our impacts on the natural environment, and commit to offset these where we operate in sensitive ecological environmental areas.

The Booysendal operations encompass several ecologically sensitive areas, some of which are of critical biodiversity importance. The Buttonshope Conservancy Trust was established in 2010 to ensure the conservation, rehabilitation and protection of the natural environment at Booysendal.

Together the Booysendal operation and the Buttonshope Conservation Trust own 12 937 hectares (ha) of the 14 691 ha under its control. Of this, 8 540 hectares is managed independently from the Booysendal operations and includes 3 339 hectares specifically dedicated for Booysendal’s biodiversity offset and is under management control of the Trust. The Trust In F2022, the Trust acquired 171 ha of additional land to the value of R21 million in support of the offset. This is in line with the National Draft Biodiversity Offset Policy which stipulates that the offset is 30 times the size of the land physically disturbed by mining.

In terms of the biodiversity offset agreement Northam undertakes to transfer all protected areas managed by the Trust to the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency after the closure of the Booysendal operations.

Offset areas managed by the Buttonshope Conservation Trust notably include rivers and their catchment areas, featuring a unique area of montane grassland near the headwaters of the Groot-Dwars River which traverses the Booysendal mining area.

Rehabilitation and closure

The closure of mining operations may have potential impacts on the workforce, the wider community, the local economy and the environment. The associated potential closure risks are considered in the planning and construction phases of the operations with the aim of calculating rehabilitation, closure and post closure liabilities. All wholly-owned operating mines have established closure and rehabilitation plans incorporated into their environmental management plans.

In line with the MPRDA and NEMA’s Financial Provision Regulations we are working on more detailed closure and rehab assessments, assisted by the involvement of an independent specialist. These liabilities will be assessed using commercial rates, which are higher and more realistic than the DMRE rates.

Closure and rehabilitation liabilities and provisions on 30 June 2023 (R’000)1Financial provision liability based on DMRE rates
  Financial provision
Liability (DMRE) Bank Guarantee Northam Platinum
Restoration Fund
Zondereinde R 292 093 R 225 187 R 76 976
Booysendal R 329 828 R 260 240
Eland R 263 041 R 279 988 R 76 976
Group total 30 June 2023 R 884 962 R 765 415 R 153 952
Group total 30 June 2022 R 961 391 R 733 586 R 142 568

1 For further information, please refer to annual financial statements Note 28 for a comparison of the DMRE closure quantum liability and commercial liability.

Progress against objectives

  • Acquisition of a further 802 hectares at Booysendal, increasing the land owned by the Buttonshope Trust to 4 141 hectares
  • Biodiversity study and management plan completed for De Berg Reserve

PC statistics [icon] For more detailed data, see our ESG data sheets (xls)

Improving air quality

The emission of sulphur dioxide and particulate emissions from the Zondereinde metallurgical operations is a material issue associated with air quality. The Zondereinde metallurgical facility operates under an Atmospheric Emission Licence (AEL) issued in terms of the National Environment Management Air Quality Act 39 of 2004. In terms of a postponement agreement which is effective until January 2025, the AEL provides for an interim main stack SO2 emission limit of 3599mb/Nm#. This arrangement goes hand in hand with an emissions management plan and a particulate matter offset initiative.

The offset project focuses on reducing particulate emissions by improving waste collection, recycling and disposal practices and preventing burning of waste in the nearby Smashblock community. The focuses on reducing PM10 (particulate matter smaller than 10 μm) and PM2.5 (particulate matter smaller than 2.5 μm) from a combination of emission sources.

Over the past five years significant upgrades and improvements have been made at the processing facilities – with a focus primarily on air quality and stormwater management, with a capital spend of some R738 million to date. In addition an amount of R218 million was invested in a management plan dedicated to particulate emissions.

Dust fallout and impact related to this are a concern for many mine communities. Dust emissions are largely associated with unpaved roads and certain production activities, such as stockpiles and unvegetated tailings dams. Operational controls, including the vegetating of tailings dams and dust suppression applications, are in place to limit dust emissions. All operations have extensive networks of dust buckets to monitor dust fallout from production activities at the mines. The National Dust Control Regulations set the maximum dust fallout rate for industrial locations as 1200 mg/m2/day.

Progress against objectives

  • 50% improvement in SO2 intensity since 2018
  • Particulate matter offset project implemented at community level

Sulphur dioxide emissions intensity

Sulphur dioxide emissions intensity [graph]

Metallurgical processing: strategic execution programme

Strategic processing execution programme [graph]

Resource consumption

Mining and metallurgical operations rely on a variety of bulk resources including mined and processed rock, liquid fuels, coal, grease, steel, timber, and oils. Plastics, rubber, timber and scrap metal are recycled and we encourage our suppliers to use recycled and recyclable alternatives where possible.

Sourcing from South African suppliers owned and run by historically disadvantaged persons (HDPs) and black economic empowerment (BEE) compliant companies is fundamental to our approach. All suppliers need to fulfil the requirements of our vendor governance systems and responsible sourcing standard (introduced in 2022).

2023 2022 2021 2020 2019
Rock mined (1000t) 9 853 7 940 8 408 5 132 5 268
Ore milled (1000t) 10 655 8 726 8 145 5 752 4 892
Total water use (1000m3) 37 055 38 142 39 079 33 900 34 000
Energy from purchased electricity (MWh) 1 419 585LA 1 278 261LA 1 184 298 1 031 549 971 036
Timber use (bulk support) (m3) 2 963 2 585 3 000 2 587 2 505
Oxygen (tonnes) 3 935 3 384 3 659 3 449 3 455
Sulphuric acid (tonnes) 782 795 678 672 688
Sulphur dioxide (tonnes) 149 162 139 123 140
Lubricating and hydraulics oil (000 litres) 9 753 4 798 3 237 2 099 1 614
Diesel (000 litres) 16 230 9 301 8 605 6 920 4 974
Petrol (000 litres) 81 85 85 92 99
Coal (tonnes) 14 097 12 482 13 781 14 677 12 085
Jet A-1 fuel (000 litres) 78 69 56 42 46

All aspects of on-mine waste management are regulated; recycling and recovery is promoted and encouraged where possible. Landfill disposal is the least desirable option. All operations report into the South African Waste Information System (SAWIS). Acid mine drainage and cyanide management are not associated with any of the group’s operations. Mine tailings are pumped underground and used as backfill and the remainder are deposited on tailings storage facilities. Mineral residues are treated as a business risk and are rigorously managed to avoid environmental and social impacts.

Non-mineral waste (tonnes) 2023 2022
General waste to disposal 5 767 6 045
Hazardous waste to disposal 1 061 935
Medical waste 5 11
Total waste generated 6 833 6 992
Waste diverted from disposal 2023 2022
Timber recycled 1 541 1 119
Steel & scrap metal recycled 5 209 4 360
Industrial waste recycled 2 873 3 230
Plastic recycled 89 134
Rubber recycled 441 309

Tailings storage facilities

Northam manages four active tailings storage facilities (TSFs); two at Booysendal, and one each at Eland and Zondereinde. TSFs pose a variety of risks with the potential to cause serious harm to third parties and the natural environment within a ‘zone of influence’. These risks are assessed frequently throughout the life of the facility, including post-closure. In South Africa, mineral residue facilities are regulated by law, with particular reference to the Guideline for the Compilation of a Mandatory Code of Practice on Mine Residue Deposits. This makes the implementation of the South African National Standards (SANS) 10286 Code of Practice for Mine Residue Deposits compulsory.

Tailings management – four tiers of oversight:

  • The operator, under the control of operational legal appointees, is responsible for the day-to-day operational activities
  • Engineer of Record (EOR) provides continuous support from initial design to construction and monitoring
  • Annual assessments to review structural stability and design conformance by third party auditors
  • Annual reviews to determine whether the facilities are fit for purpose, compliant with legal standards and international good practice, safe and presenting minimal risk to local communities and the environment.

With the exception of Eland the group’s TSFs have been constructed using the upstream method. Eland’s TSF is based on a waste rock impoundment model. The facilities are designed to match the operational life of the mines, including closure phases. Given the geology of the TSF sites there is no risk of acid rock drainage nor acid-generating compounds. In the interests of continuous improvement, we seek to ensure internal standards align with emerging international standards for continued upstream operations. Following our review of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM)2 in FY2021 we have identified improvements in areas such as independent review processes, quality criteria and local community engagement.

Tailings management 2023 2022
Disposed to tailings storage facility 8 470 314 7 546 282
Used for backfill 753 496 646 015

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