AfriSam signalled its seriousness about its environmental stewardship over 15 years ago with the introduction of its first environmental policy in 1994. AfriSam operates this drive towards ‘greening’ the industry at several different levels simultaneously, making it a leader in environmentally responsible cement and concrete manufacturing in southern Africa.

Significantly, AfriSam was the first cement, aggregate and readymix producer in southern Africa to publish an environmental policy in 1994. Today, the organisation has a comprehensive sustainability roadmap which covers a broad range of focus areas, including waste management, water conservation, biodiversity conservation, emissions reduction and energy management. The company has established performance indicators that continuously monitor and track compliance to the company’s sustainability roadmap targets.

Rehabilitation and Biodiversity conservation

Mine rehabilitation is an area where AfriSam had led industry with mine rehabilitation plans for all the company’s quarries completed in 1984. This was followed by the establishment of a dedicated Nature Conservation Trust in 1986 to provide funding for the closure of these mines.

Rehabilitation of land impacted by AfriSam’s mining activities is not just a legal requirement but a moral obligation, and this level of long term planning by AfriSam demonstrates a commitment that will ensure that land can be returned to a self-sustainable landform to be enjoyed by future generations. AfriSam actively practices concurrent rehabilitation at its sites where possible which is in line with its policy to restore mined–out land to as close to its original state as possible. In many instances alternative use is found for the land such as turning it into reservoirs, dams or recreational facilities.

Environmental stewardship also requires that a company is proactive when considering its impact on the environment and this has been the case in Saldanha Bay. AfriSam has received approval from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning for the construction of an integrated cement manufacturing facility on the Saldanha Peninsula in the Western Cape. This piece of land, owned by AfriSam, contains pristine vegetation of exceptional conservation value and therefore needs to be adequately protected to prevent extinction of these rare species of flora.

AfriSam’s focus on biodiversity involves detailed and ongoing research to measure the environmental impact of operations on species of flora and fauna, and steps to protect and foster biodiversity where necessary, especially where species are protected by law or endangered.

To ensure the sustainability of the relevant flora, AfriSam has set aside over 500 ha of the land it owns in Saldanha for conservation purposes. This land has received contract nature reserve status, the highest level of stewardship, and underscores AfriSam’s commitment to conserving natural resources, including flora, for future generations.

Perhaps one of the least known and exceptional examples of AfriSam’s commitment to environmental stewardship is that of the significant archaeological and paleontological finds at its Sterkfontein quarry near the Cradle of Mankind. This was five years before the Sterkfontein Caves was declared a World Heritage Site. Realising that the company had stumbled on something which could have important repercussions for the scientific knowledge of the area, AfriSam immediately suspended all quarrying activities and commissioned a number of surveys including archaeological, vegetation, palaeontological and geological studies.  Subsequently, AfriSam has rehabilitated the area and donated it to the University of Witwatersrand for further promotion of education.

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