Anglo American proposed opening the Gamsberg Zinc Project in Bushmanland, a large open pit mine on a quartzite inselberg (an island mountain) in the heart of a pristine biodiversity hotspot.
Detailed assessments of biodiversity were undertaken, the analysis showed the Gamsberg was the single most important site for biodiversity conservation in the region. While the biodiversity studies were thorough, environmentalists were concerned that the global and national biodiversity significance of the area had not been adequately recognised in the overall EIA and that proposed mitigation measures were inadequate.
A stalemate between Anglo and many of the conservation NGOs developed and the project was placed on hold due to low zinc prices. This provided some breathing space between opposing parties, and two important developments during this time facilitated constructive engagement between the conservation and mining sectors in the region.
An agreement was reached to establish a partnership project: the Bushmanland Conservation Initiative (BCI). This partnership between conservation NGOs, the mining company and local communities aimed to establish a multi-owned protected area through a variety of innovative interventions and mechanisms that drew in local landowners. The protected area will achieve conservation targets for biodiversity in this priority area through a multi-use approach. The BCI will develop local conservation management capacity through training of local community members as conservators within the project management team.
What began as a confrontation between mining and conservation interests gradually developed into a collaborative approach that included systematic conservation planning. This catalyzed Anglo Base Metals’ direct involvement in implementing conservation action that meets conservation targets. Without systematic conservation planning, it would not have been possible to determine the impacts of the Gamsberg mine, suggest meaningful mitigating measures, build credibility of biodiversity goals or provide a way for the mining sector to contribute that adds directly to efforts to meet biodiversity conservation targets.