Robyn Mellett: A Resolute Leader Excelling in Handling Environmental Projects

While mining industries are crucial to the economic structure of the world, it is also imperative that they follow sustainability and restoration practices to balance their impact on nature. Sustainable mining helps minimize negative environmental impacts like deforestation and water pollution. Restoration efforts focus on reclaiming mined areas and promoting native plant growth. Economically, sustainable practices balance resource extraction while ensuring long-term viability. Socially, community engagement and health considerations play a vital role. Helping the mining industry achieve such environmental goals is OMI Solutions (Pty) Ltd, “OMI”, a company that adds value to its clients through innovative implementation of solutions that improve sustainability, reduce environmental liabilities, and minimize risk.

Restoring Balance

OMI Solutions (Pty) Ltd,(OMI) provides a comprehensive range of services in Environmental and Agricultural Engineering, specialising primarily in the mining sector. Its services include Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), Environmental/Sustainability Regulatory Compliance, Environmental Monitoring, Financial Provisioning and Closure Planning, Research, Development and Remediation, Environmental Licensing, Environmental Technical Support and HSE Management System Auditing, Development and Implementation. 

OMI creates “Fit for Purpose and Powerful Solutions with Gentle Delivery” keeping even some of the smallest stakeholders, the insects, in mind. Its vision is to add value to its clients through innovative implementation that improves sustainability. What sets OMI apart in the market is its unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability and innovative solutions. It prioritizes environmental stewardship and seeks to minimize the ecological footprint of the mining industry through its services and practices. OMI stands out by actively working towards positive industry change, advocating for responsible and ethical practices, and exceeding regulatory and social expectations in rehabilitation efforts.

“We emphasize ecological interconnectedness and believe in leading by example, setting new standards for environmental restoration and sustainability. OMI’s trajectory, marked by a steadfast commitment to sustainability, ethical practices, and innovative solutions, positions it as a leader in the mining sector,” says Robyn Mellett, Founder and CEO.

In 2020, OMI established its first apiary (bee farm) and “Wings Sanctuary” at Mountain Honey in Pretoria which won a Professional Stewardship Award in 2021 as it encompasses five of the SDGs set out by the United Nations. These include – No Poverty (SDG 1); Gender Equality (SDG 5); Reducing Inequalities (SDG 10); Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11); and Life on Land (SDG 15). 

Beekeeping is essential for environmental sustainability, supporting pollination, conserving biodiversity, and promoting sustainable agriculture. For almost four years OMI has been rescuing swarms, at no cost to the affected person or community, and relocating these swarms to the Wings Sanctuary where full-time beekeepers watch over, protect, love, and rehabilitate these swarms back to a healthy state. They can then be relocated to farms that need pollinators. The Research Facility at Mountain Honey was also established in 2020, where the first trials to undertake remediation without the need for topsoil were undertaken.

“The aim is to establish Wings Sanctuaries across Africa for all pollinators by promoting the establishment of vegetation. The preservation of bees, and all pollinators, promotes biodiversity,” shares Robyn.

The Passionate Environmentalist

Throughout her 20-year career, Robyn has been involved in several environmental projects and the management thereof, particularly in the mining sector within Africa and the Middle East. Her journey began as a lecturer at the Qwa-Qwa campus for the University of the Free State. She then worked her way up from being a junior environmental scientist at a consultancy to senior environmental positions at mining operations. She earned a reputation for rolling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty and often teased about bringing the mud into the office. 
Outreach, education, training, and giving back have also always been important to Robyn, so she left mining for a short period in her career and worked in Afghanistan, something which, without a doubt, had a huge impact on her as a person. “I will forever be grateful for this life-changing experience and for the people I met,” she says.
On choosing mining restoration as a career, Robyn shares how her dad played a huge role in her love for nature and the outdoors. Since childhood, she always wanted to fix everything and make everything better. She was always bringing home rescue animals and saving something, so she certainly did not choose; mining, restoration, and rehabilitation chose her. 

“This long, very hard, and at times a very sad journey God has taken me on, all makes sense to me now, my passion for restoration and rehabilitation is embedded in my DNA, and without a doubt, he has a purpose for me on this wonderful planet we call home. I wake up with this overwhelming feeling of accountability and drive to prove skeptics wrong, and to turn everyone’s “no’s” into “yesses”. Through innovation, we can achieve sustainability, but to get this right we must put the well-being of people first,” she says.

The Inspiration behind OMI

Robyn was inspired to establish OMI because, during her time working in the mining sector, she constantly encountered skepticism and resistance to innovative ideas. She realized that she would have to create her own platform where her ideas could flourish without limitations. Overcoming skepticism and resistance to change in the mining sector proved to be a significant challenge she faced in her career. Despite encountering numerous setbacks and hearing countless “no’s,” she remained steadfast in her belief that there was a different way to approach environmental management, and time has proven the value of her ideas. This experience taught her the importance of resilience, innovation, and staying true to her convictions.
“The one word I am very used to hearing is “NO”, and for years it hurt me to the core, but once you work in a war zone, you realize your life is in God’s hands, and at any minute now, you could die, and then the word “NO” doesn’t carry any weight anymore,” she says.
The restoration solutions that OMI has successfully implemented in its research facility and on the ground will change the status quo of restoration of mining activities worldwide. 
An Action-oriented Leader

As the CEO and founder of OMI Solutions, Robyn’s role revolves around driving the company’s strategic vision and fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration. Her working style emphasizes active listening, adaptability, and a commitment to nurturing talent and discipline within the organization. There are no mistakes, there are only lessons. Gender balance, equal gender pay, inclusion, diversity, youth development, equal opportunities, and recognizing performance creates a motivated and fair space for her team to work and thrive in.

OMI prioritizes mentoring and empowering employees. The core team promotes inclusivity, the staff attends school, training centers, team-building institutes, universities, and conferences, and have obtained driving licenses, various certificates, diplomas, and degrees while working. Since 2021, OMI has also actively contributed to addressing South Africa’s youth unemployment crisis by participating in the YES program. This initiative provides practical work experience for previously unemployed youth, with a remarkable 75% retention rate within the organization. In addition to this OMI also pays monthly stipends to disabled learners in South Africa.

“It is also really important for me that we support Charities and NGOs/NPOs initiatives, Enterprise, Supplier and Socioeconomic Development and connecting young innovators throughout Africa,” emphasizes Robyn.

Minimizing the Ecological Footprint

OMI Solutions balances mining operations with environmental sustainability by implementing a multi-faceted approach that prioritizes ecological preservation while supporting the needs of mining activities. They begin by conducting thorough Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) to identify potential environmental risks and develop mitigation strategies. The team integrates best practices and innovative technologies to minimize the ecological footprint of mining operations, including implementing environmental monitoring systems, adopting sustainable land rehabilitation practices, and promoting biodiversity conservation. They also collaborate closely with mining companies to develop and implement tailored environmental management plans that prioritize sustainability.

One of OMI’s key focus areas is the rehabilitation of impacted areas. Mining activities often leave scars on the landscape, disrupting ecosystems and leaving behind degraded land. OMI recognizes the imperativeness of restoring these areas to their natural state, not only for ecological reasons but also to meet regulatory and social expectations. The company invests considerable resources in research and development to devise creative and effective strategies for rehabilitation. OMI’s commitment extends beyond mere compliance; it strives to exceed expectations by setting new standards for environmental restoration.

OMI is pioneering biodiversity conservation with the establishment of apiary farms/wing sanctuaries across various provinces in Southern Africa. The vision to establish sanctuaries for all pollinators by promoting natural habitation and plant diversity in impacted areas goes hand in hand with OMI’s rehabilitation practices. 

“Beekeeping is intrinsically tied to environmental sustainability. It supports pollination, conserves biodiversity, promotes sustainable agriculture, and raises awareness about the importance of bees and other pollinators in maintaining a healthy environment. Sustainable beekeeping practices, combined with the preservation of natural habitats, contribute to a more environmentally responsible and sustainable future,” explains Robyn.

Aligning with World Sustainability Goals

OMI Solutions is actively working towards the sustainability goals of the world by aligning its practices with international standards and frameworks such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). OMI contributes to global sustainability efforts through its focus on environmental conservation, community engagement, and sustainable development practices. By promoting biodiversity conservation, supporting socioeconomic development opportunities, and raising awareness about environmental issues, it aims to make a meaningful impact on the sustainability goals of the world.

Assessing the Industry Trends and Challenges

One of the primary challenges facing the mining industry is the resistance to change and the entrenched mindset toward traditional practices. To overcome this challenge, Robyn suggests that it is essential to foster a culture of innovation, promote collaboration between industry stakeholders, and invest in education and training programs to drive awareness and adoption of sustainable practices. By addressing these barriers, we can unlock the industry’s potential for positive transformation.

Another challenge that hinders progress, is the lack of involvement of communities. By involving communities in the development of biodiversity and rehabilitation plans, OMI ensures that they are made aware of the importance of biodiversity and conservation. This teaches communities how to protect and conserve the ecosystem services they rely on daily. OMI believes that education and awareness empower individuals and communities to make informed choices, take meaningful actions, and adopt sustainable practices. Informed and engaged communities advocate for better environmental policies and regulations. Biodiversity conservation and rehabilitation is best achieved with partners and the collaboration of communities.

In the next five years, Robyn anticipates a growing emphasis on sustainability, digitalization, and stakeholder engagement within the mining industry. To prepare OMI for these trends, she is investing in research and development of innovative technologies, fostering partnerships with key stakeholders, and enhancing its capacity for sustainable practices. “By staying agile and adaptive, we aim to remain at the forefront of industry trends and drive positive change,” says Robyn.

“I believe God is a scientist, he and I speak the same language, and if we stop, listen, and watch, he shows us how to do it, the answers sit within the work he has already done.”

Ready for the Future

OMI Solutions stays abreast of industry changes and consumer demands through ongoing research, collaboration with industry partners, and engagement with stakeholders. By prioritizing continuous learning, adaptability, and a customer-centric approach, we ensure sustained growth and relevance in the market.

In the coming years, Robyn aims to further expand OMI’s global presence, drive innovation in environmental sustainability within the mining sector, and continue advocating for diversity and inclusivity. “We would like to expand our reach into greater parts of Africa, and to leverage the power of the mining sector for societal change, especially for the youth,” concludes Robyn.
“Focus on what you have control over, and give the rest to God, let God be your Wings.”

“By integrating innovative tools and software, OMI harnesses technology to enhance efficiency, accuracy, and sustainability across our operations, streamlining environmental management processes and report writing.”