In anticipation of the closure of the Yatela mine
in 2006, a number of initiatives have been explored to promote the sustainable
development of the region after mining ceases. One of these initiatives is the
Yatela Fish Farm, located in a quarry that was used to provide aggregate for the
base of the leach pads at the mine. The trial project began in early 2002 and is
driven and managed by the on-site environmentalist Emma Bamforth and the mine
management team, with support provided by the corporate office in Johannesburg.
The quarry trial provides an ideal opportunity to both breed up a stock of fish
to be introduced into the main Yatela pit at closure and to be used as a
training facility in the interim.
Water is supplied to the quarry from an overflow
pipe which feeds the mine water supply and, because of the nature of the host
rock - which is diorite - there is very little seepage. This means that water
accumulated here during the rainy season would remain for a couple of months,
causing a stagnant malaria-breeding area.
About 150 fish and 30 eels were initially
introduced into the quarry after having been captured in the nearby Senegal
River. The species which are breeding highly successfully are the Banded Jewel
Fish, Nile Tilapia, Banded Tilapia and Catfish - all of which are hardy and have
good tolerances regarding pH and salinity levels.
The fish are fed on insects attracted to lights
that are suspended a few feet above the water. Bi-weekly two buckets of sorghum
husks are thrown into the water for the smaller fish to feed from. (These husks
are commonly used by local fishermen.) An added benefit of the fish breeding
project is that they also feed off mosquito larvae (reducing the prevalence of
malaria in the area), breed extremely quickly and provide high levels of
protein. They are also indigenous to the area.
Recently some of the fish were netted to check
species and sizes and it is estimated that harvesting can begin from 2005
onwards. A suitable Malian operator is being sought in association with the
Small Business Development Foundation and will be guided in good aquaculture
practices - the frequency of harvests, seasons, size limits etc. This has the
potential to become a large scale operation once these fish species are
introduced into the pit-lake at mine closure. In the best case scenario
individuals could farm and sell the fish to local communities; at worst case
they would have a resource to use on an individual basis that also reduces
malaria in the area.
A number of different fish traps have been
experimented with, although it has been found that a small mesh size must be
used or the outside of the trap effectively becomes a gill net for the smaller
species trying to feed from the bait inside the trap. The advantage of this
system is that fish are caught live and undersized ones can be returned.