Access to sustainable and reliable water is not only critical, but fundamental to the provision of basic human rights. But it is not just ‘access’ to water that is key, says Vusani Malie, CEO of SIOC Community Development Trust (SIOC-CDT), but ‘convenient’ access that makes a fundamental difference to the social, health and economic welfare of a community. This belief led SIOC-CDT to commit to and initiate a R20m project for the provision of a sustainable, reliable and convenient water supply to residents of the Northern Cape’s Babatas community.
Situated in Gamagara Local Municipality in the Northern Cape, Babatas covers approximately 261 942 ha of land. Due to its location – that sees it situated roughly 25km away from either Kuruman (Ga-Segonyana Local Municipality) or Kathu (Gamagara Local Municipality) – Babatas is too far from any available bulk municipal services and thus has no access to any established water or electricity supply.
As a largely residential and agricultural community, with a main source of income the rearing and selling of animals, water is of significant importance. At present, the small-scale agricultural activities rely on three old boreholes that the community has connected to a central tank from which households extract drinking water through a diesel-powered pump. However, this supply is not adequate for both families and their animals. Residents are often forced to walk very long distances to fetch water from the streams when the water system breaks down. This is often the case, especially given that residents are required to contribute towards the costly fuel required to extract water when the boreholes are in working order.
To rectify this, and assist in empowering the Babatas community, SIOC-CDT appointed iX Engineers to design and manage the implementation of a far more sustainable, reliable and convenient water supply solution to residents of the Babatas community.
The project scope entails the following activities:
• Appointment of professional consultants to proceed with designs, WULA (Water Use Licence Application) and EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) applications.
• Investigate, drill, equip and commission up to 10 new additional boreholes to meet the demand – both now, and for a further 600 households anticipated in the future.
• Equip all four (4) additional boreholes with solar powered pumps.
• Refurbish one (1) existing borehole and connect it to the Eskom electrical supply line.
• Appointment of contractor.
• Laying of approximately 8500m of bulk supply pipeline (110 mm diameter, Class 9 uPVC), approximately 7500m internal water reticulation network (75mm diameter, HDPE).
• Install three elevated water tanks (i.e. 2 x 50kl tanks and 1 x 30kl elevated fire storage tank).
• Fence off boreholes and elevation tanks.
• Construction of 5km gravel road to the reservoir, and
• Installation and connection of approximately 300 standpipes to bring water into the household yards.
With detailed designs for the project together with the preparation of tender documents already at an advanced stage, and drilling of five of the boreholes required already complete, SIOC-CDT is confident that project completion will take place before the end of 2021.
“The benefits of a reliable, convenient and sustainable water supply for a community are enormous,” says Malie. “Aside from a conveniently available water supply to all residents and animals leading to improved hygiene for the community, additional benefits include not only savings realised in household water extraction but, so too, the inevitable income generation created by temporary job opportunities associated with this project, with no fewer than 30% of said opportunities mandated to be filled by local suppliers and/ or residents.”
“At SIOC-CDT, we remain committed to our vision of empowering beneficiary communities to thrive beyond the lifespan of the mine through the implementation of sustainable socio-economic initiatives through partnership with key stakeholders,” continues Malie. “We express our sincerest thanks and gratitude to various stakeholders who are working with us to ensure the successful completion of this project, including the likes of Gamagara Municipality who have given us their commitment that all infrastructure developed for the Babatas community as a result of this project will be fully maintained and operated by the Gamagara Municipality through its technical services department, just like all other municipalities and Kathu Solar Park for its upfront commitment of a R1m contribution.”
SIOC Community Development Trust (SIOC-CDT) was established in 2006 by Sishen Iron Ore Company (SIOC) (Pty) Ltd to invest in the uplifting of the communities in which the mining company operates in the Northern Cape and Limpopo. We invest significantly in community development projects aimed at ensuring sustainability beyond mining operations.
SIOC-CDT has substantiated its stated intention of “defining ourselves through actions, not our words” by investing over R1 billion in socio-economic and community development projects in its beneficiary communities; Gamagara, Tsantsabane, Ga-Segonyana and Joe Morolong in the Northern Cape, as well as Thabazimbi in Limpopo.