LEIP – A Greener Industrial Revolution

Limpopo Eco-Industrial Park is an innovative project that demonstrates a sustainable path to the future. Limpopo Eco-Industrial Park (LEIP) will be the world’s
first eco-industrial park to practically produce zero solid-waste.

The park will feature heavy and light industries including metals and minerals beneficiation, organic agriculture, agri-processing and many related SMMEs, integrated with a nature park and two eco-housing complexes. These are all facilities that produce waste as a matter of course, some of which can be recycled but most waste typically ends up in landfills.

“Based on the principles of industrial ecology, the LEIP aims to emulate nature by closing the waste loop.
It’s designed as a closed-loop by using plasma waste gasification to vaporise solid-waste at around 2,000 degrees Celsius, leaving a vitrified slag that will be utilised as construction material, and producing syngas for power and manufacturing,” explains project board chair Webster Mfebe.

“Plasma gasification is a service that will be provided to all LEIP tenants. Noxious and toxic waste gas emissions will not be flared but will also be gasified to reduce all hazardous elements to their
basic molecules, which can then form part of the syngas stream.”

The LEIP project, which is being developed by Eco-Industrial Solutions (Pty) Ltd (EIS), exemplifies inclusive sustainable eco-industrial development, demonstrating that the health of the environment and the development of the economy are not competing, but complementary interests.
The project development company was co-founded in 2011 by Dr Pieter du Toit, an internationally experienced project developer of large industrial and infrastructure projects and Mrs Deshika Kathawaroo, a professional natural scientist with experience as an environmental assessment practitioner. The founding members share in the vision and passion to find solutions to the social and
environmental challenges facing humanity today. It was the CEO of EIS and the LEIP, Deshika Kathawaroo, whose scientific background and passion for sustainable development inspired the design of the LEIP project.

Webster adds, “It’s worth noting in terms of ownership structure the project development company is 89 % black-owned, and 57% black women-owned, while the LEIP is 65% black-owned with
90% board control. The local community has also been allocated 10% of the project, through Musina Local Municipality.” The LEIP project has an estimated CAPEX of R10.7 billion and is expected to create a minimum of 289251 jobs during the first five years of construction. The project is being taken seriously by the South African government, with the support of thMr Lloyd Tobias, Acting Chief Executive of Transnet Freight Rail and Mrs Deshika Kathawaroo, CEO of EIS and LEIPe Presidency, The Public-Private Growth Initiative (PPGI) as well as BUSA, Invest SA and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and evaluation (DPME).

“We are happy that the LEIP is one of President Ramaphosa’ top ten national priority projects, as part of 43 projects in the Public-Private Growth Initiative, The LEIP was announced at the Presidential Investment Summit in Sandton on the 6th November 2019.” Mfebe says. “We’re also waiting for the last inhibitor, reliably expected to be resolved within this December, namely
issuance of the integrated bulk water use licence, so that we can complete the project bankability and start construction of the LEIP’s basic infrastructure.”

Mfebe sees this project as not just a headline-grabbing once-off, but as an example of the fundamental paradigm shift that is necessary for Africa’s businesses, going forward.
“The business case for the Limpopo project is that it has transitioned through a major paradigm shift to leapfrog archaic fossil fuel-related technologies such as coal-fired boilers, coal mine dump waste, noxious and toxic gasses and excessive CO2 emissions, landfill sites, all of which are undesirable and yet also techno-economically viable to eliminate,” Mfebe says. “Similarly, due to the severe strain on agricultural land coupled with predicted food shortages, particularly in Africa, the LEIP will grow organic food with climate mitigation and adaptation strategies integrated into thedesign from the outset. We’re fortunate to take advantage of this paradigm shift brought on by climate change to build these strategies into the park’s business model at this crucial time.”

Through the careful management and sharing of resources and infrastructure, the impact of the industry is reduced while productivity and efficiency increase. Eco-industrial parks are proving to be a critical sector, contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Whereas 20 years ago there were only 50 eco-industrial parks in the world, the LEIP is now one of 250 such EIPs either in development and/or operation worldwide.

Of course, there have also been challenges along the way. Whilst the project is one of those that have received support from President Cyril Ramaphosa himself, Mfebe admits it has faced indifference from some government officials, with delays in issuing the project’s water use license having significantly slowed down progress. However, the Limpopo Eco-Industrial Park is now set to be the proving ground for a new way of doing business in a world where climate change is an urgent crisis with only a decade to correct our development pathway before the damage becomes irreversible.

“Eco-Industrial Solutions will use the Limpopo Eco-Industrial Park as a blue-print for developing other Eco-Industrial Parks,” Mfebe says. “We will also market the plasma gasification service to be utilised locally where waste problems persist – municipal waste, for instance, is a big problem with limited land available for landfills, as are hospitals and other facilities with hazardous waste, and that’s where we want to make a difference.”

While the political will to fight the climate crisis is growing, Mfebe believes that business has a crucial role to play. “Clean technologies and solutions are commercially available, but I would say in the absence of well-monitored legislation the fate of our species rests on responsible business leaders to make the right choices,” Mfebe points out. “We’d like to see a clear measurable plan by government supported by corporate policies that include rebates to encourage companies to shift to clean technologies and to penalise those companies that don’t comply, particularly highly
profitable major international companies that are polluting in South Africa with impunity. Our human development pathway must be redirected to a responsible and sustainable pathway for current and future generations as a matter of urgency.”

The Limpopo Eco-Industrial Park pioneers that new development pathway.
“Limpopo Eco-Industrial Park demonstrates a transition to an inclusive sustainable development pathway, and we need to promote and ensure this symbiotic relationship between the co-existence of the planet, people and profit,” Mfebe says. “And in that way, we will ensure the current resources are well managed for future generations. We are ensuring that our children do not inherit a planet that has been plundered by irresponsible leaders. What is important is not only to look at leadership, every society must put pressure on its individuals to take care of the
environment and ensure that any developmental initiatives are done in a sustainable manner.”

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