Our aim is to determine whether fibre-rich biomass, including bamboo, can be used to remediate degraded land in a way that is economically feasible, leading to enhanced economic complexity, the establishment of a bamboo micro-industry, higher value-add in output and job creation.
To do this, several environmental, chemical processing, economic and legal questions need to be answered. Specifically, these are:
- To what degree can remediation of degraded land from mining activities be restored through active plant cultivation (for example, bamboo or similar crops), and how effectively can this create jobs?
- Does bamboo have the characteristics required for production on degraded land? (e.g. tolerance to salt and metals?) What other features of crops make them favourable for selection?
- Can bamboo or other fibre crops grow in water, thus serving as macrophytes during the remediation’s water polishing step, yielding high quality water as a product for re-use alongside the biomass product?
- What potential products can be recovered from the macrophyte reactor during the remediation process? What is the typical material balance around nutrient usage, metal recovery and plant biomass generated in the macrophyte systems of interest?
- Can fibre-rich plants be converted into biocomposites and textile products, including rayon, in environmentally responsible and economically feasible ways using clean production methods, and in a way that creates jobs and aids development?
- In addition to biocomposites and textiles, are there opportunities for using waste biomass from the above applications as a feedstock to the waste biorefinery for production of energy or platform chemicals?
- What is the potential for this research to ultimately stimulate a micro-industry surrounding fibre-rich plants, thus creating jobs? To answer this question, we will use the “product space” methodology to build and map an economic complexity model.
- To what extent does a potential bamboo industry in South Africa offer a chance to build human capital and capacity of labourers? We will look at how, moving up the value chain, fibre-rich plants such as bamboo can be used to create an array of products including tiles, window frames and scaffolding material: this would allow low-skilled individuals to learn additional skills when they create more sophisticated products from bamboo.
- How do existing legal requirements influence the behaviour and choices that mining companies make regarding their rehabilitation programmes? This study may present an alternative model for mine rehabilitation, which requires ongoing attempts at rehabilitation rather than nebulous future obligations.
- How can the envisaged process be regulated, and will this require modification of the existing law to facilitate the implementation of alternative rehabilitation schemes? To answer this, we will need to interrogate the current regulatory framework.
- In terms of environmental checks and balances, will planting bamboo as a mining rehabilitation tool trigger environmental law requirements that would need attention in the study? For example, Framework Environmental Laws, such as the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 and the Environmental Conservation Act 73 of 1989, may trigger certain processes and requirements. These could include the submission of environmental impact assessments, environmental management plans, and the application for environmental authorisations, or compliance requirements under relevant environmental management frameworks.
- From the perspective of Natural Resource Laws beyond mining and minerals, to what extent will the proposed model trigger or avoid permitting requirements or controls?
-Further, to which extent will planning frameworks (Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act 16 of 2013, as well as associated provincial and municipal planning legislation) need adaptation to align with the proposed model, and the zoning requirements.
Towards Resilient Futures CoP
c/o Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU)
University of Cape Town
Private Bag X3
Tel: +27 (0)21 650 5701 ResilientFutures@uct.ac.za