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Taking mining issues to another level

23 May 2022

Compiled by Cosmas Sunguro

One of the AMI side sessions

Mining Communities are known to be resource rich and ordinarily there are expected to be economically developed. Of late, this has not been the case as stagnancy and sometimes this is due to political bickering when politicians jostle to benefit from mineral resources. Living in one’s community sometimes makes one oblivious of what other communities are facing. An attendance to indabas like the just ended Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI) in Capetown South Africa gave me a clear picture of what is happening in mining some mining communities across Africa.

 The Indaba ran from 9 to 11 May 2022 under the Theme: A Just energy transition for sustainable mining Communities in an era of the climate crisis. For the first time it was attended by more than 30 countries an indication that its growing bigger and stronger.  To add icing on the cake, the Indaba became a teenager as it marked its 13 years since its formation. Having been in existence, AMI has seen it all and has made strides in changing the livelihoods of mining communities.

Nuggets From Alternative Mining Indaba.

After attending a series of sessions during the AMI, there are key observations that were realized during deliberations. Mining in its nature is destructive especially to the land. These impacts were generally acknowledged by communities’ representatives who related how they have been affected by mining activities. In terms of capacity to solve issues, it can be said that various methods have been used with mixed fortunes. In Kenya for example, others have been persecuted. As for Zimbabwe, generally we are now at a better footing compared to some mineral rich countries. We have been able to reach a stage whereby we can sit and negotiate with mining companies for the good of our communities and country at large. Many thanks to ZELA for capacitating mining communities to be able to negotiate on their own.

In terms of community beneficiation from their mineral resources as enunciated by the African Mining Vision (AMV), most communities are still far from benefiting in a way that is sustainable in nature. Host communities need to benefit from their minerals. It is a struggle that can be achieved if laws are crafted such that beneficiation becomes mandatory as opposed to the corporate social responsibility (CSR) which is optional and voluntary.

Where mineral resources are found, Environmental Human Rights Defenders (EHRDs) face challenges of victimization and intimidation from some of mining companies and government officials. Cases of disappearance and death has been recorded bearing testimony that there are some unruly elements bent on frustrating the work of EHRDs. However, it was recommended that governments and mining companies have a duty to protect, respect and offer remedies to those whose rights are infringed. This is according to the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP) on responsible mining.

Unfair labor practices continue to hog the limelight as some mining companies are still treating employees unfairly. Cases of safety and health at workplaces were recorded especially in the artisanal small-scale miners (makorokoza or Zama zamas). Issues of transparency and accountability in extractives sector plays a critical role in shaping mining communities. Some companies and investors are having their contracts in secrecy. Not much is disclosed from the contracts and in some instances the Parliament is disabled in playing its oversight role. This on its own is leading to illicit financial flows (IFFs). In 2021 AMI deliberations, it was noted that, ” … Africa is losing $40 billion annually through IFFs from extractive sector alone”.

Way forward:

As mining-affected communities, it was resolved that an ecological and development agenda be set as we continue calling for inclusion, particularly, in current conversations related to a just energy transition. The agenda will be guided by the principle of “Leaving no one behind”, underpinned by a feminist lens.

There is need to craft an Energy Charter that considers unpaid domestic care work borne by women and the youth who constitute a large share of the bottom stratum.

Taking into cognizance that the existing policies were not prepared to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic which has further deepened inequalities. As a way of reducing inequality, there is need to seize the opportunity presented by the pandemic to interrogate whether these policies are reducing inequality and in what way.

  There is also need for policy reviews to establish if at all the existing labor and mining policies benefit workers particularly women, the youth and other vulnerable population groupings.

The government needs to exude a political will to implement existing policies. It was resolved that CSOs need to tighten loopholes as they intensify their advocacy to fight social injustice, illicit financial flows, inequality, climate change and of course set the agenda for a just energy transition. Ensuring there is proactive and meaningful participation at all levels.

To safeguard new technologies and intellectual property developed in the continent. As CSOs, there is need to identify community champions on the ground and enhance their capacity on legal issues and alternative justice systems and to support them to be able to meaningfully participate in Environmental Impact Assessment processes and invoke all the legal frameworks at their disposal for litigation.

Finally, it was resolved that AMI be an inclusive space for all including people with disabilities.

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