Anglo American’s Unki platinum mine operating in Zimbabwe’s move to be assessed against the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) comprehensive mining standard has been welcomed by locals as a reflection of the company’s commitment to transparency and responsible mining.
This came out during a Shurugwi dialogue meeting held on the 16th -17th March 2021 which was attended by communities who stay within a 25 kilometres radius of the Unki mine site. The meeting convened by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA)’s objective was to collect feedback from communities and stakeholders on the recently released Unki Mine audit report. The meeting is part of ZELA’s work under the transparency, responsiveness, accountability and citizen engagement (TRACE) program being implemented by the strengthening transparency and accountability in the natural resource governance (STA-NRG) consortium.
The IRMA Secretariat reached out to the public interest environmental law organisation requesting it to assist in compiling feedback from communities on the audit report and give feedback on areas the company needs to improve on before the next audit. According to the IRMA standards, the audited mines are allowed a 12-month corrective action period before being audited again if they are interested in addressing non-conformity and other requirements to gain recognition for improved performance. The mine was audited and ranked IRMA 75.
Among several expected deliverables by the mining company is the need for it to carry out a scoping process that includes collaboration with relevant stakeholders, identifying and addressing potentially significant impacts that the mining project may have on water quantity and quality. Despite the mine being the first in the world to publicly commit to be independently audited against the IRMA standard for responsible mining in 2019, it has failed to address all the environmental and social challenges bedeviling the local community. The mining-related chemicals, wastes, facilities, and activities have posed a risk to water quality.
The community has been making fervent calls to Unki to urgently address the situation with the local Councillor having this to say.
“Under the environmental responsibility principle, a critical control framework for mine waste facilities should be developed by Unki mine, however it is saddening to note how the hazardous waste facilities and slag dumps have led to loss of our livestock. We have lost our cattle after these consumed mine waste and it is unfortunate that we have not yet received any compensation. Of course, the mine has an open-door policy, but on this one they have been found wanting.”
The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) whose certification system for mine performance seeks to provide market value and recognition for responsible practices at the mine site. IRMA argues that they provide independent, credible reporting of a mine’s performance, allowing different stakeholders to better understand the achievements of mining companies, as well as the challenges they face.
The women who attended the meeting and have managed to interact with the organisation’s community monitors from Mutoko and Zvishavane called on ZELA to replicate the Action Aid in Zimbabwe supported project of building the capacity of rural women to organize and mobilize on women’s right to land and to equitable benefits from their natural resources. Through this project themed Fair, Green and Global, communities are being capacitated to partake in demand driven advocacy. Awareness raising meetings focusing on aspects not limited to community mobilization, environmental, economic, social, and cultural rights has assisted them to be resilient in demanding redress of their grievances.
The IRMA Standard for responsible mining is designed to support the achievement of four overarching principles that include, Human Rights Due Diligence, Revenue and Payments Transparency Complaints and Grievance Mechanism and Access to Remedy and Community and Stakeholder Engagement that entails to enabling communities and stakeholders to participate in mining-related decisions that affect them. Unki Mine excelled in the four principles, however there are recommendations drawn from the community engagement meeting that will be submitted to the company. ZELA hopes that these will be included in Unki Mine’s correctional action plan in the coming few months.
Mining companies operating in the country are also encouraged to replicate this practice and join Anglo American which has led the way on IRMA Standard for responsible mining.