CASE STUDY:

Williamson diamond mine and responsible rehabilitation

Williamson diamond mine is a large open-pit operation that has been in existence for some 70 years mining the 146 hectare Mwadui kimberlite pipe. The mine strives to keep the impact of such an extensive and long-term operation to a minimum.

Progressive rehabilitation is carried out concurrently with mining operations. Disturbed areas are rehabilitated, with special attention being paid to the areas where surface gravels have been mined. Williamson has done exceptional work in the reforestation of the mine’s Mwadui area, with some 2 million m² having been reforested, with a further 1 million m² due for reforestation.

Rehabilitation in the Williamson Diamonds Limited lease area had to take into account that a total of six vegetation types exist there: swamp grassland, typha capensis wetland, acacia polyacantha woodland, thicket bushland, settlements with alien plants and severely degraded areas. Thicket bushland is the dominant vegetation type, covering 35% of the lease area, while acacia polyacantha woodland is very important to the local people as a source of food, fuel and building materials, putting it under immense pressure. The forest is home to jackal, hyena, reedbuck, dik-dik and many other species of smaller animals.

In an attempt to conserve the forested areas for future generations, Williamson has instituted patrols to control the chopping down of trees and the illegal hunting of wildlife. The mine also restricts and controls both animal grazing and subsistence farming in the lease area. A plan is being drawn up for the harvesting of trees in the forest, which will be given to local schools and surrounding communities for fuel.

Ngitiri Conservation Area

The 500m² Ngitiri area in the centre of Mwadui township has been identified as a conservation area. The 5,000 indigenous trees have been planted in Ngitiri since 2008 and it is planned that the area will be protected by fences and patrols to allow for an influx of wild birds and smaller antelope species. A total of 15 beehives are located in the area to assist with the repair of vegetation.

Parks and Gardens Department

In 1997, Williamson established a Parks and Gardens Department which now hires 50 contract employees. The department is responsible for replanting trees, controlling invader vegetation species in the township areas and maintaining the township’s parks and gardens.

Four of the department’s employees work in the Williamson nursery, which stocks a range of indigenous species and exotics. The nursery, covering some 3,300m², has the capacity to raise 500,000 seedlings annually. These seedlings are given to Williamson employees, the surrounding communities, and used in the lease area rehabilitation programme. In FY 2011, approximately 120,000 seedlings were produced with 114,000 being distributed to various institutions in the region and 3,480 planted on the mine.

Williamson’s hard work and integrity in the field of environmental rehabilitation has not gone unnoticed. In 2010, the mine was selected as the district and regional winner in the biennial Presidential Award on Forest Management and Water Source Conservation. The message on the ground is that Williamson mine is “ready to be declared winners in this competition again in 2012”. Judging by the very high standards that Williamson sets for itself, this avowed intention is very likely to become a reality.