The formal quarrying sector in South Africa has worked tirelessly to clean-up its act in order to preserve the human rights of workers, as well as surrounding communities.
While certain other mining sectors have battled with human rights violations as a result of unsafe work practices, pollution of surrounds and social irresponsibility, quarries belonging to the Aggregate and Sand Producers Association of Southern Africa (Aspasa) has, for the past 15 years, put in place measures that protect citizen’s rights.
A quarry operation to be proud of: Peninsula Quarry in the Western Cape (photo: Dale Kelly)
It was also among the first member associations to implement two separate programmes relating to environmental, as well as health and safety compliance. This means that in order for a quarry to become a member of Aspasa they have to first ensure compliance with all relevant legislation, as well as with the Association’s own strict standards. Thereafter they are audited annually on the About Face environmental programme and the ISHE health and safety programme to ensure ongoing compliance.
“We are serious about looking after the human rights of all involved in the industry as well as communities who may be affected by our member operations,” confirms Aspasa director Nico Pienaar. “For this reason, we ensure members follow the ‘letter of the law’ in terms of how workers and visitors are treated on site, have a safe working environment and manage the site in a sustainable manner.
“Although the quarrying industry is one of the biggest employers in the mining sector, our ongoing efforts have resulted in our sector having among the fewest fatalities and this number is steadily declining. Also, we are working with government and other stakeholders to identify and eliminate preventable diseases on our sites.
“These are basic human rights that are being dealt with on a daily basis and coordinated with our members via Aspasa. We have adopted a leadership role in this regard and have shared our knowledge and practices widely throughout the mining industry in South Africa, as well as abroad through the Global Aggregates Information Network (GAIN),” says Pienaar.
He continues that perhaps the most far-reaching influence the Association has is through its environmental About Face programme. This ensures that Aspasa member quarries do not negatively impact the environment as well as waterways and air quality surrounding the quarry. This means that surrounding residents should be no worse off than before the quality was started.
“Rather, the aim is to put residents in a better position with long-term sustainable jobs created, as well as social responsibility inputs that are encouraged among our members. Air pollution in the form of dust has to be suppressed; water usage is tightly controlled and has to be free of pollutants before leaving the site,” Pienaar says.
“Furthermore, our aim is to rehabilitate the land in such a way that it may become an asset to the community once it has reached the end of its life. This may be in the form of a large-scale water reservoir, a landfill site, shopping centre development, race track, nature reserve or anything the community may dream up.
“What is blatantly clear is the fact that our quarries are a good place to work in and are safe and sustainable for the future. It is also important to remember that the interventions that our members have in order to protect all our human rights come at a monetary cost.”
It is therefore important to ensure that building and large-scale construction projects undertaken by government and the private sector are done using only responsibly-obtained aggregates from Aspasa members. A cheaper rate may come with a far heftier price tag at the end of the day.