Mining a threat to food security

Current mining and new prospects for mining could soon have a devastating effect on agricultural production as well as long-term food security implications for the country.

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This was according to a study on the impacts of mining on agriculture published as part of the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy’s (BFAP) agricultural baseline outlook for 2012 to 2021 (Baseline 2012), which was compiled under the leadership of Dr Ferdi Meyer of the University of Pretoria.

In Mpumalanga, 79 967ha of agricultural land currently under maize and soya bean production will be taken over by mining activities within the next ?ve to 10 years. Furthermore, without taking expected yield improvements into consideration, it is estimated that about 447 581t of maize and 49 889t of soya beans could be taken out of production from this area over the next 20 years, if all the current and proposed future mining (on prospected areas) takes place.

More sustainable
According to the Baseline 2012, in the short term, mining’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) exceeds the contribution of agriculture by a signi?cant margin, yet in the long run, agricultural production can be regarded as more sustainable.

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“Therefore, the long-term impact of mining on food security and employment becomes even more important to understand.”
The report on the impact of mining on agriculture, which was compiled in co-operation with the Maize Trust, showed that maize prices were likely to increase by 9% on average due to the loss of production in Mpumalanga.

Some 1,5% of South Africa’s soil is high potential arable soil, of which 46,4% is in Mpumalanga. At the current rate of coal mining in Mpumalanga, it was calculated that approximately 12% of South Africa’s total high potential arable land will be transformed. A further 13,6% is currently being prospected by mines in Mpumalanga, the report stated.

If the current mining areas are overlaid with the latest ?eld crop boundaries, a total of 326 022ha will be lost to mining and a further 439 577ha are at risk if the prospecting area is also transferred, totalling 765 599ha of cultivated land potentially transferred if all the mining activities go ahead.