Active mines have a responsibility to protect the environment in which they operate as well as contribute meaningfully to the socio-economic development on the surrounding host communities. These requirements would be set out in the mine’s approved Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and advancing the wellbeing of the host communities is critical to obtaining and maintaining a social licence to operate.
There is often a requirement for specific economic projects which the mine is required to develop in conjunction with host communities to establish sustainable income, which will hopefully continue past the operational phases of the mine.
In many cases, mines have access to significant land resources which can be safely utilised by host communities as a basis for non-mining related income.
Enter bee-keeping, a novel concept aimed at developing a bee-keeping project with host communities and initially support with the acquisition of hives and allowing safe access to suitable land. The bees make honey which can then be harvested and sold. Beekeeping is a legitimate use of land and can be used as feasible and sustainable community projects in the long term at a minimal economic cost to the mine.
The plight of the honeybee, especially in Europe and America has been in the news of late. The much-publicized Colony Collapse Disorder has causes such as an increased insecticide use and climate change.
Neonicotinoids are synthetic compounds derived from nicotine, a natural insecticide, often sprayed on seeds to prevent insects from eating them before they begin to grow. Studies have shown that these compounds may affect bees at extremely low concentrations. Additionally, these insecticides are neurotoxic to bees and cause harm to colonies even in non-deadly doses.
Other studies have shown that an increasing frequency of unusually hot days is increasing local extinction rates, reducing colonization and site occupancy, and decreasing species richness within a region, independent of land-use change or condition.
There is therefore a need for them to be sustained and protected if they are to continue providing the essential pollination service demanded by commercial agriculture.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Pollinator Initiative (IPI) have subsequently begun the “Global Pollinator Project”, and SANBI is undertaking an important project researching the honeybees’ forage resource requirements.
Managed pollination services are underpinned by the availability of forage resources. Therefore end land use options could consider the planting of indigenous vegetation and fodder crops (such as Lucerne, cloves or vetch) to provide important honey bee forage. The prevalence of bees would also assist in pollination on areas where mining has taken place and under being rehabilitated.
By implementing bee keeping projects there is direct tie up between creating economic development and assisting the proliferation of bees which in turn promotes ecological balance.