Our mines are the only source of formal employment in the regions where we operate and it’s critical we play an active role in developing secondary economic activities that can support and sustain our host communities, now and in the future. The mine cannot provide employment for the entire region, and other innovative and sustainable solutions are required to support the local economy of the region.
That’s why the first harvest of blueberries at our Barberton Blueberry project this year is such a landmark moment.
A labour-intensive crop well-suited to Barberton’s climate and geography, and with high upward demand in both local and international markets, blueberry farming has already created close to 400 jobs – permanent and seasonal – in its first phase.
This phase includes 96 000 under-tunnel blueberry plants on 15-ha of land made available by Barberton Mines, and includes a state-of-the-art irrigation system. The first harvest, which commenced earlier this year and will last through to November, is expected to yield some 300 tonnes of high-quality fruit, after which yields are expected to increase. In so doing, this rich harvest rubberstamped the long-term commercial sustainability of the project, and supports our objectives of growing this to a 45-ha commercial farm, as funding becomes available for phases two and three.