In the process of administering the instrument in Appendix A
, data on a number of variables were collected. Table 4
shows the demographics of the participants who participated in the interview sessions.
Fifteen interviews were conducted with distribution as indicated in Table 4
. The interviews were conducted and transcribed by the lead author. For each of the subsections below, the question that was posed to the interviewees (refer Appendix A
) is indicated at the beginning, followed by the responses received to the question.
3.1.1. Decision-Making Information Used by the Coalmining Industry Regarding Impact on the Environment.
The question posed was, “What information is used in the coalmining industry to make decisions with regard to their impact on the environment?”
A synthesis among all the interviews in response to the question pointed to the following information:
Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) with corresponding environmental management plans (EMPs);
Project designs, environmental-baseline research reports, and case studies;
Advice from coalmining consultants and shareholder views;
Environmental legislation and regulatory requirements, amongst other;
South-African National Environmental Management (NEMA) 1017 act of 1998, which promotes government co-operation and legislation on environmental matters.
The above findings are consistent with views expressed by Stein et al. [33
] and Mathee [34
]. Some respondents also mentioned aspects around measuring waste management through acid mine drainage (AMD) (see Section 3.1.2
) and referred to information from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and internal audits for risk, safety, governance, and analysis.
In support of the above, one of the respondents remarked,
“[Environmental impact assessments] EIAs including specialist studies and project designs are mostly used to make decisions. [Environmental management plans] EMPs, environmental legislation, regulatory requirements, engagement with mining consultants and research institutions, community complaints and NGOs, cost impact assessments, monitoring information and shareholder’s views to make decisions.”
3.1.2. Decision-Making Information Used by the Coalmining Industry to Identify Waste
The question posed was, “What information does the coalmining industry need to identify waste?”
Information supplied by respondents in response to this question varied much, but the following could be synthesised by the researchers:
Definition and classification of waste in terms of the NEMA Waste Act, 59 of 2008;
Chemical analyses, waste classification information, material characterisation, standards, and legal specifications;
Information on contaminated soil and polluted sources;
Information on sampling analyses, e.g., the volume of solids and liquids into and from plant materials.
The responses coincide with research by Qian et al. [35
] who argued that the use of EMA was facilitated by paying attention to waste management.
Some of the responses were
“Input from [the] technical survey department, classification of waste in the coalmining industry, [and] operational waste usually applies [apply] LEAN principles and market waste, that is, what cannot be sold.”
“[Also, information needed are] Chemical analysis and classification information, coal grade classification material characterisation of all streams, standards and legal specifications, as well as sampling analysis information.”
3.1.3. Coalmining Information Used to Reduce Costs Regarding Environmental Impact
The question posed was, “What information does the coalmining industry need to minimise cost with regard to their impact on the environment?”
Some of the participants responded as follows to the question posed:
Leading indicators and suggestive tools to proactively put corresponding measures in place to facilitate coalmining operations;
Project designs aligned to environmental considerations;
Legal requirements to avoid legal cases; and
Recycling, reusing, and generating zero waste such as dry cooling beneficiation.
Owing to the information content of the corresponding instrument question, the researchers observe that some of these aspects appeared before. The above items imply the use of MFCA to capture and draw the attention of decision-makers to the costing of waste [36
Some of the responses received were,
“Options of recycling, reusing, and generating zero waste. For instance, dry cooling beneficiation, waste is usually considered as zero cost material only when market value for waste streams is found, [it] is then that we qualify the processing cost involved, environmental variables (climate change, ecology and vegetation type).”
“Spatial data, regional planning data, improved benchmark data and new technology solutions, accurate quantification of the impact and best practice guidelines. Integrated data needed from suppliers to understand the cost drivers, mining methods, safety measures and risk management training. Operational costs in terms of changing current operations downtime, proper planning and execution from production department to environmental and technical departments.”
3.1.4. Effective Processes Employed by the Coalmining Industry to Facilitate Decisions with Respect to Environmental Impact and Cost Savings
The question posed with respect to environmental impact and cost saving was, “How successful are the existing processes employed by the coalmining industry to make decisions on (a) their environmental impact, and (b) related cost savings?”
It was clear from the responses that the participants found this question hard, consequently their responses were sparse.
That said, some of the respondents alluded to
Uncertainty of existing measures to facilitate decisions—existing measures appear ineffective;
Integration of environmental management with operational management;
Continuous improvement of water liability owing to mining operations;
Post-mine challenges regarding topsoil shortfall and liability backlog;
Related costs ought to include full LCC but does not appear to be effective. The related costs do not always include the full LCC, e.g., long-term liabilities. This is contrary to the assertion by [36
] who opined MFCA to be a tool for EMA to record waste-cost information precisely;
Finding ways to mitigate the punitive reputational view of environmental impacts. If reputation impact exceeds revenue, adverse environmental impacts ought to be addressed.
Many of the responses agree with Kim [37
], who concludes that addressing environmental impacts while at the same time saving on cost is hard. The criticism of LCC being ineffective disagrees with Fakoya and Van der Poll [36
], who opined that LCC and MFCA are effective tools for EMA.
The sentiments are captured aptly by the following responses:
“Water liability remains a challenge for long-term processes. Therefore, continuous improvement must be developed to raise environmental performance over time. Environmental impacts take a punitive reputational frame; if reputation impact is greater than revenue, then it is worth mitigating the environment.”
“Proper budgeting and procurement procedures should be in place. Topsoil shortfall and liability backlog is still an issue and it will affect the mine post-closure. Current processes are not very effective but can become environmentally sustainable if [coalmining companies] develop and integrate practice[s] that can reduce the environmental footprint (impacts) and costs.”
“I have no facts and figures about this, no answer.”
3.1.5. Determine Familiarity with EMA
Interviewees were also probed with respect to their familiarity (or otherwise) with EMA. Specifically, the question posed was, “To what extent are you familiar with environmental management accounting (EMA)? If familiar, what are the benefits of EMA for the coalmining industry?”
Of the 15 interviewees, 73% indicated they are unfamiliar with EMA. The rest, 27% indicated a familiarity with EMA. This finding agrees with Burritt [38
], who observed a relative unfamiliarity with EMA in 2005. The situation seems to prevail in recent times. That said, a recent call was made by Saeidi and Sofian [39
] for managers to familiarise themselves with the advantages of EMA.
Two respondents said,
“EMA is a new concept, and I am not familiar with it.”
“Not familiar with EMA, but I assume that it relates to valuing the ecosystem.”
The researchers concur that more familiarity with EMA in the coalmining industry is warranted.
As indicated in Appendix A
, a sub question enquires about the advantages of EMA. Naturally, should a respondent be unfamiliar with EMA, no answer was offered. Respondents who were familiar with EMA presented positive information, viz:
Improved knowledge of the trade-offs between economic development and environmental impacts;
Improved decision-making abilities, and hence being proactive with respect to managerial decisions;
Improved cost–benefit analysis;
Protection of the environment from pollution;
Minimising waste, thereby improving on the LCC profile;
Harmonization of production and environmental management activities;
Identification of resources, activities and financial impacts of mining operations.
One of the supporters of EMA concluded,
“Some of the key benefits of [EMA for] the coalmining industry include better decision-making, protection of the environment from pollution, enables coalmining companies to minimise waste which impacts on the environment, improves life cycle costing.”
The above findings concur with Bracci and Maran [40
] as far as a proactive management style is concerned. Even though 73% of the interviewees were unfamiliar with EMA, those who were knowledgeable about it gave valuable information (refer to the above bulleted list). It indicates to the researchers that EMA awareness campaigns are much needed.
3.1.6. Reasons for Possible Non-Implementation of EMA by the Coalmining Industry
The question posed was, “What are the reasons for possible non-implementation of EMA principles and associated environmental management accounting tools by the coalmining industry?”
Responses to this question were,
Excessive costs may be incurred through continuous environmental rehabilitation—re-evaluating associated costs and environmental penalties;
There are insufficient funds for land rehabilitation and related liabilities;
There are challenges associated with implementing EMA and the costing thereof;
Coalmining focus is on production (and larger profit) and not on environmental impacts;
It is not (yet) legally required to adopt EMA at an operational level in the coalmining industry but voluntary;
Governance frameworks are at an infancy with respect to ISO standards, specifically the monitoring and reporting of standards;
There is a lack of
awareness, knowledge, and understanding of EMA;
enforcement by authorities; and
effective environmental strategies.
Two of the interviewees reported,
“My assumption is that there are existing perceptions and there are high costs related to implementing EMA which affect the bottom line.”
“The ultimate focus is on production and not on the environmental impacts. This is mostly evident especially in the small coalmining companies that are not public listed companies or not listed on the JSE [Johannesburg Stock Exchange].”
The above discussions disagree with Jasch [41
], who demonstrated that EMA may be implemented in a day. That said, the above coincide with Kamruzzaman [42
] arguing that companies focus more often on generating profit than mitigating their environmental impacts.
3.1.7. Coalmining Processes to Follow to Mitigate Environmental Impact and Save Costs
The last question posed to each interviewee was, “Which processes ought to be followed by the coalmining industry to make decisions on (a) their environmental impact, and (b) related cost savings?”
Responses to this question coincided with previous answers. Some additional responses are
Embark on more detailed reviews and continuous provision of mitigation plans from planning to inception;
Identify risks and environmental hazards;
Adopt existing legislative instruments like EIAs, EMPs, and NEMA ought to be enforced;
Consult with environmental personnel in decision-making processes;
Improve on metallurgical and power station processes;
Determine the impact on communities;
Reduce CO2 emissions;
Implement MFCA and DEA processes.
One of the participants responded,
“The integration of environmental requirements from planning to inception of the coalmining project; implementation of sustainable mining operations and sustainability evaluations; and ongoing environmental monitoring, and proper consultation with environmental personnel in decision-making processes.”
The above findings agree with the views of Garzella and Fiorentino [27
] as well as Bagur-Femenías [43
] that an EMA investment necessitates substantial financial seed funding. Note how this disagrees with Jasch [41
], who claims EMA may be implemented in a day. It was also noted that EMA adoption is often due to a management, or shareholder directive. In this case the use of EMA could be embedded in company policies and operational business plans [44
Schaltegger et al. [45
] and Burritt [46
] argued that environmental accounting systems measure quantities in physical units and provide processes to regulators for managing compliance. Such accounting processes are essential for the calculation of green taxes such as CO2
or volatile organic compounds (VOC) discharge tax, thereby having an influence on the regulatory aspects previously addressed.
With respect to the cost saving aspect, many respondents noted the use of modern ICTs to assist with estimates. This coincides with the researchers’ recognition of a bespoke MIS (see Section 1
). A call was also made to promote drive patriotism and to avoid tick-box exercises. The above was neatly captured by one of the respondents:
“A dedicated environmental budget, provisions required for post mine-closure activities, proper procurement procedures and processes including financial modelling of projects. Moving away from tick-box excuses, think alternative industries, value water quality analysis, and drive patriotism.”
The above concludes the discussion of the first phase of the survey, namely the interviews with individuals. Having conducted the interviews, a large part of the conceptual framework in Figure 1
has been validated, but numerous additional aspects came to the fore, thereby augmenting the attributes of the entities (the boxes) in the framework.
The enhanced entities are shown in Table 5
. A comparison with the proposition-based framework in Figure 1
reveals numerous new items. Also, the risk aspect previously sparse on information has been populated through the interviews.
The researchers note that while there are certain elements in Table 5
that could be deemed more important than others, depending on the stakeholder using the framework, the items have not been assigned weights. The current research adheres to a qualitative research choice in which items are not (necessarily) quantified. That said, quantification may be possible, specifically as future work in this area (refer Section 5
Next, the focus group session aimed at validating the associations among the entities in the Figure 1
framework is discussed.
3.2. Focus Group
The focus group comprised 12 participants from seven coalmining companies. These participants attended a series of three seminars, organised by the South African Coaltech company (https://coaltech.co.za
) together with the lead researcher. The focus group was conducted at the grounds of the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria, Tshwane metropolitan. The demographics are indicated in Table 6
Next, a discussion around validating the associations (pA1 to pA7) in the framework, together with a new association, pA8, that emerged from the focus group is presented.
3.2.1. Association pA1—Purpose Serving Environment (Stakeholders)
The first association evaluated was pA1: The underlying question posed was to what extent will reduced water pollution and improved health and costing and sound decision making benefit investors, coalmining employees, and the natural environment?
Participants P1, P3, P6, P7, P10, and P12 responded positively. P7 enquired whether the lead author needed any further responses upon which it was decided the response from the group was sufficient. There were no disagreements among the group with respect to pA1.
Conclusion: The purpose as indicated would, therefore, serve the interests of the environment (stakeholders). Consequently, the validity of the said association was accepted.
3.2.2. Association pA2—Subject Field Useful for Environment (Stakeholders)
Association pA2 was considered next—namely, to what extent will EMA (including PEMA and MEMA) add value to the aspects indicated for the environment (stakeholders)? Of specific importance was to consider the scenario where a coalmining accounting department or executive management might not have the environmental management information for decision-making purposes.
Participants P2, P3, P5, and P6 agreed that the two branches of EMA (PEMA and MEMA) would add value to the coalmining environment (stakeholders), specifically in providing executive management with correct decision-making information. None of the other participants offered any objection to this viewpoint.
Conclusion: A correct EMA implementation with specialisations PEMA and MEMA ought to facilitate the interplay between stakeholders and the surrounding environment. Association pA2 is, therefore, assumed to be intact.
3.2.3. Association pA3—Subject Field Affecting Tools (Methodologies)
Association pA3 was subjected to: Do the PEMA and MEMA divisions of EMA add value to aspects such as MFCA, LCC, and the green strategy?
Participants P2, P3, and P12 agreed that the two branches of EMA would add value to the EMA tools such as ISO, LCC, and a green strategy. No objections were posed by any of the other participants. However, further discussions elicited a reverse influence from tools (methodologies) to subject field, i.e., these is a two-way interaction between these two entities. Consequently, association pA3 holds but should be adjusted accordingly.
Conclusion: Subject field indicators in the framework will provide valuable information for tools and methodologies and vice versa.
3.2.4. Association pA4—Tools (Methodologies) Affecting Purpose
Association pA4 considered the extent to which the tools (methodologies) indicted will serve the purpose of reducing water pollution, lead to improved heath, improved costing in terms of savings, higher profit margin, and better decision making.
It should be noted that a dotted line connects tools (methodologies) and purpose in the framework. As indicated in the legend to the framework, this indicates a control that is exercised in the respective direction. This aspect was pointed out to the group before discussions commenced.
Participants P6 and P1 disagreed with association pA4 and indicated that, in general (all industries, not only the coalmining industry), EMA would not serve the purpose of the entity as indicated. This was an unexpected response. However, on probing further, it turned out the coalmining industry may well benefit from the above, but so long as other industries that also compromise the environment do not come on board, the problem will prevail. The responses of the two participants, therefore, had to be interpreted in context: although the framework is customised for the coalmining industry, it ought to be applicable to other industries. The researchers agree with P1 and P6 that the framework should also apply to other industries that could pollute the environment. Consequently, association pA4 is accepted.
Conclusion: From the findings of the focus group, tools (methodologies) will serve the purpose as indicated in the framework.
3.2.5. Association pA5—Regulatory Aspects Determining Environment (Stakeholders)
Association pA5 evaluated the claim that regulation exercises control over environmental aspects including stakeholders in the coalmining industry. Such regulations are intended to benefit the industry and not hamper operations.
Participant P7 stated that a sensible application of regulatory guidelines would benefit the environment but not necessarily the investors. P3 proposed that there should be a provision for the decision-making framework in that the regulations should be applicable to all industries or sectors and not only the coalmining industry (see Section 3.2.4
). P10 indicated that in principle, guidelines are fine, yet the South African government tends to turn guidelines into law, and coal mines are penalised for transgressions of the said guidelines, which is not correct, as guidelines are supposed to advise and guide coalmining companies in conducting their business. Therefore, guidelines should not be interpreted as hard-and-fast laws. There was consensus in the group about these aspects.
Conclusion: From the discussions amongst group members, there was consensus that regulatory aspects can go a long way in controlling adverse effects on the environment, so long as these would be applied to all industries and not only the coalmining industry. Association pA5 was, therefore, accepted.
3.2.6. Association pA6—Tools (Methodologies) May Affect the Environment (Stakeholders)
Association pA6 addresses the effect of tools (methodologies) on the environment (stakeholders), with respect to the aspects addressed before. Of specific importance is striving for being green by the coalmining industry.
Participants P1, P5, P6, P10, and P12 agreed that the EMA tools such as ISO, LCC, and a green strategy would add value to saving and improving the environment (stakeholders). The remaining participants offered no objection. It is anticipated that this consensus can assist the coalmining companies to achieve profit while simultaneously saving the environment. Consequently, association pA6 is assumed to hold.
Conclusion: From the findings of the focus group, the tools (methodologies) as indicated in the framework will add value to stakeholders and facilitate saving the environment.
3.2.7. Association pA7—Regulatory Influences Purpose
Association pA7 was next evaluated by the focus group. The association indicates that the flow of regulatory information would assist the purpose with respect to reducing water pollution and adverse environmental impacts, improve costing, and enhance decision making.
Participant P7 agreed that the flow of regulatory information would facilitate the purpose as indicated. P6, however, was hesitant in the sense that the regulatory information would certainly be applicable to the coalmining industry, but regulatory initiatives would remain challenging if other industries continue to pollute and compromise the environment, as these industries may not be equally and strictly regulated and monitored.
The group agreed that the SA coalmining industry is well regulated and spends funds in addressing environmental damages, yet it seems to be the only industry that is being penalised for environmental pollution. Although it is a good initiative to allocate funds for environmental purposes, the municipalities are not penalised for polluting the environment, and therefore, there is inconsistency in the application of regulations. Therefore, you “… cannot spend money in one area and expect that it will address environmental pollution in other areas and sectors”. The following case was presented: Polluted water from Emalahleni’s municipal sewage plant flows into the farms and coalmining area, and little or nothing is being done by law enforcement to prevent it. It appears, therefore, that the focus is on penalising the coalmining industry while other industries “do as they wish”. Consequently, there are inconsistencies in the application and enforcement of regulatory legislation as per the focus group.
Conclusion: Responses of the focus group indicate that regulatory guidelines ought to serve the purpose of the coalmining industry in feeding regulatory information into the purpose statement(s) of the industry. Association pA7 is, therefore, accepted.
Next, a new association, pA8,
is considered. It is not present in the Figure 1
framework but elicited by the researchers following the interviews described in Section 3.1
3.2.8. Association pA8—Regulatory and Risk Aspects
The new association pA8 establishes regulations as mitigating risks in the coalmining industry.
Participant P6 agreed that the regulations and policies would assist in the identification of risk and mitigation in the coalmining industry. However, as previously indicated, regulations ought to be consistently enforced on all industries in South Africa and not only to the coalmining industry, as is currently the case (opinion of the group). P6 also indicated that the coalmining industry is being strictly monitored and audited yet invests large amounts of money on environmental aspects, and these benefits are readily evident, so regulations should be applied to all industries. The researchers note that, should coalmining companies fail to detect the necessary risks, their risk management plans will not be effective. This may link to the aspect of project plans noted in the interview findings.
Conclusion: Regulations may go a long way in assisting the coalmining industry in identifying, mitigating or even avoiding risks altogether in their day-to-day operations.
From the updated entity content in Table 5
, resulting from the interviews, and having established the associations through the focus group session, together with the new association pA8
, the final decision-making framework for mitigating environmental impacts and facilitating cost savings in the coalmining industry is given in Figure 3