During the drilling design process, land regulatory restrictions must be checked on the land registration map on the government website. Other restrictions also need to be checked for each location, such as any heritage protection area, road buffer area, national/provincial parks, water source or catchment protection area or military reserve area. Approval from the local county for the land use is required under the Groundwater Act, and if in a mountainous area, then also the Mountainous District Act, after landowner approval.
Mountain District Act (MDA)
Approval is required for drilling or trenching to gain permission for and reporting on temporary use of mountainous districts. The purpose of the regulation is the preservation of national land reserves and their natural environment. A survey of the area that will be affected, including tracks and pads required, needs to be completed by a licensed surveyor and a rehabilitation design has to be made by a certified forest engineer. The MDA submission can be lodged on a tenement application without a granted tenement, but the decision is up to the regulator in the local county office.
Groundwater Act (GwA)
Each drill hole requires GwA approval as there is a chance drilling activity can contaminate groundwater. The purpose of this regulation is to ensure proper hole closure and to reduce the possibility of subsequent groundwater contamination.
Other environmental regulations that may require risk management protocols at the request of the county are noise, vibration, dust and waste disposal. Drilling close to local towns can elevate concerns around these issues but Southern Gold has several options to deal with each of these issues should they arise.
Where access roads are required to be constructed to the drill site, the proposed road route is visited several times to select the option which minimizes damage to the mountainous area and maximizes safety of all stakeholders. All excavator contractors are closely supervised, and the surrounding environment is checked in advance to prevent a possible rollover or other hazards while mobilising the drilling rig.
At the drill site, safety meetings with the drill crew are held periodically to encourage safety awareness and prevent accidents. This includes monitoring fitness for work, wearing PPE, fire prevention and extinguisher maintenance, installation of a safety line in steep terrain to prevent falls, and so on.
To minimise contamination of drilling works, Iondrive ensures the use of a tarp and non-woven fabric on the ground for possible oil spills. All drill cuttings and drill fluids are stored in above ground tanks when drilling is done in a farming area, and small sumps for pumping are lined with plastic. Drill cuttings and on-site waste are disposed of through professional waste disposal contractors. The aim is for Southern Gold to leave a minimal footprint once it leaves the area, ideally in such a way that you would not know we were there.
After drilling in Mountainous areas, Iondrive has the obligation to restore as per the agreed MDA plan. The main restoration work is tree restoration on access tracks, which involves planting appropriate tree seedlings, seeding grasses and stabilising slopes. Once rehabilitation is completed, the department in charge conducts an inspection to approve the restoration works. Some examples of this important work are in the photos below:
After drilling is completed, each hole is closed by a licensed company to prevent contamination of groundwater. This involves inserting sand and cement down the hole, then making a cement plate about 60cm below ground and finally replacing the soil to return it to its original condition.
The landowner is informed of the rehabilitation plan before restoration, which will allow them to be satisfied with the outcome. After rehabilitation, Iondrive conducts follow-up management through on-site visits and drone photography. A tree planting company manages the trees so that they grow well for two years until they are established.Iondrive always fulfils its environmental obligations in accordance with the regulatory requirements and is proud of the manner in which staff do their best for the environment and for the local people.