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Shortlisted for the Nature Positive Award

Harnessing life cycles to transform uninhabitable environments into functional habitats for forgotten insects and pollinators

OMI follows the ideology of focusing on the little things, like some of our smallest stakeholders, insects. “Fit for Purpose Powerful Solutions with Gentle Delivery” is our undertaking, while our vision is to add value to clients through innovative implementation that improves sustainability. OMI is constantly trying to find creative and effective solutions for the rehabilitation of impacted areas. Consequently, a nature positive approach is one of the principles at the heart of OMI’s strategy for every project.

One such solution that has been pioneered, is our transformative Tailings Storage Facility Rehabilitation Trial. Our primary goal was to develop an eco-friendly, cost-effective method for rehabilitating tailings dams without the need to truck in additional topsoil. Topsoil must often be brought in from off-site, causing negative impacts on another unrelated site. Furthermore, such soil may be contaminated with alien invasive plant species, or simply exotic plant species that are not congruent with the plant community / habitat present around the rehabilitation site. The resulting plant community will consequently not provide a suitable habitat for the indigenous insect fauna.


The projects that are geared towards making a nature positive impact are our Bee Rescue and Sanctuary Initiatives, beekeeper training and honey production coupled with promoting the importance of bees.


These projects reflect our commitment to embedding a nature-positive approach in both our internal operations and the services we offer our clients, assisting them in reducing their overall environmental impact.

Tailings Remediation Project


The basis of this concept is harnessing the potential of readily available organic amendments for the rehabilitation of tailings. In 2022 OMI started a small scale indoors research facility, testing several different options in a controlled environment. Subsequently, OMI was able to determine the success rate of each option and evaluate which options would be viable on a larger scale. Once these trials were completed, large scale field trials were implemented on site using the amendments that showed the most promise during the laboratory trial. Once these trials were implemented on a larger scale and in realistic, natural, environments we were also able to determine their success by looking at external factors, including water usage, erosion, and weather events. Dedication and meticulous experimentation led to a groundbreaking achievement: we successfully facilitated plant growth on tailings dams without traditional topsoil capping. Furthermore, the plant growth primarily consisted of indigenous species, aligning with our mission to restore natural ecosystems.


After achieving successful plant growth on tailings without the use of trucking in topsoil, we identified specific challenges that warranted minor adjustments to optimise our method. Key challenges included the scarcity of clean water suitable for irrigation, as well as the unsuitable pH levels observed in the growth medium for successful plant growth When pH is not within its allowed, rather narrow, limits, concerns about potential nutrient absorption become an issue, despite the initial success of plant growth. Consequently, more testing is currently under way to address these issues.


However, it is important to note that the project's impact goes beyond plant growth; it encompasses the entire life and death cycle of these indigenous plants. As they grow, die, and decompose, they contribute organic matter to the tailings material, gradually improving its soil structure and converting barren tailings material into a fertile substrate. This enhanced soil structure fosters a more suitable environment for sustained plant growth. In turn, the plant growth provides a suitable habitat for indigenous pollinators and other insects.


This revolution in rehabilitation represents a transformative shift in land reclamation within the mining industry. By reducing environmental impact, and creating a scalable solution, we are spearheading positive change in the global mining sector. Not only is the additional impact that was inherent in topsoil capping (the removal, and negative environmental impacts of hauling very large volumes, of soil from an unrelated site) eliminated, but it is also a more economical solution for the mine. Additionally, our focus on enhancing soil structure and the subsequent succession of plants and animals to create a mature ecosystem, underscores our commitment to holistic environmental restoration.

Bee Rescue and Sanctuary Initiatives: Mountain Honey Wings Sanctuary


OMI established its first apiary, at Mountain Honey in Pretoria, in 2020, designated it as a sanctuary (its Wings Sanctuary), and since then, for almost four years, OMI has been rescuing swarms, at no cost to affected persons or communities, and relocating them to the Wings Sanctuary at Mountain Honey. There full-time beekeepers watch over, protect, love, and rehabilitate these swarms back to a healthy state. Subsequently, these swarms are relocated to farms which need pollinators. Several bee rescues were successfully performed in 2023. The aim is to establish Wings Sanctuaries across Africa for all pollinators thus promoting the establishment of vegetation and subsequent floral and faunal succession in these habitats. The preservation of bees and all pollinators promotes biodiversity, providing downstream benefits to entire ecosystems.

Beekeeping training: Promoting the importance of bees to the public, especially young people


In 2021/2022 OMI was a proud sponsor of the Beekeeping in Schools Initiative run by the Apimondia Regional Commission for Africa. This initiative was part of the International Federation of Beekeepers' Association's mandates to promote beekeeping globally including to young people. This initiative will help bring the importance of bees to mankind and the environment home to young people.


To provide education to young and old about bees and how to care for them, OMI now offers beekeeping training courses. Two courses having been completed in 2023 with others in the planning for 2024. During the second course conducted beneficiaries were also provided with beekeeping equipment to assist in starting up their own hives. These courses aim to give the attendees all the knowledge they require to start their own beekeeping journey, and covers: theoretical and practical applications where attendees can expect to learn the basics of honeybees, about different bee products, how to establish an apiary site and what equipment is required, how to catch a moving swarm in spring, how to inspect and manage hives, how to extract honey, and basic safety including safe beekeeping practices.


Honey Production and Work opportunities at New Horizon Apiary


In May of 2023 four hives of rehabilitated bees were relocated from Mountain Honey to Ivanplats’ New Horizon farm, at Mokopane in the Limpopo Province, South Africa, thereby establishing a new apiary. A further 16 hives were moved from Mountain Honey to New Horizon in August 2023, with another five hives being  moved in October 2023. The goal of this New Horizon Apiary is to promote the rehabilitation of the biodiversity in the area through reintroducing honeybees and at the same time creating a sustainable honey producing facility which will provide jobs for disabled and disadvantaged people in the local communities. A beekeeping academy is part of the planned future developments, this will promote employment as well as opportunities for greater numbers of bees to be cared for and kept safe.


Activity in 2023:


  • Our research into rehabilitating tailings using organic amendments were shown to be effective in a laboratory and field setting.

  • More than five bee rescues were sucessfully completed during 2023. Capturing and relocating bees, while keeping them healthy and safe.

  • A new apiary was established at New Horizon in collaboration with Ivanplats.

  • The number of hives at Mountain Honey were increased to 47 and  to 31 hives at New Horizon.

  • Two training sessions to train future beekeepers were held in 2023, providing some of the participants with the necessary equipment to assist in setting up their own hives and potential apiaries

  • OMI won a Professional Stewardship Award for its Apiary/Wings Sanctuary.


Looking towards the future


OMI is dedicated to embedding a nature-positive approach in its operations and projects. Consequently, we would like to expand the application of our tailings rehabilitation solution to as many mines as is practical. Furthermore, we would like to expand our bee sanctuaries to all the provinces of South Africa thus enabling more protection for bees around the country. Our innovative rehabilitation solutions, coupled with our dedication to nurturing and promoting bee sanctuaries and bee safety, underscore our commitment to fostering a positive environmental impact and thriving ecosystems. We continuously strive for innovation to mitigate the adverse effects of human activities on the environment.

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