The impact of COVID-19 on the extractives sector: Amplifying community voices in fighting inequality and mining related injustices
On the 21st of August 2020, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association(ZELA), Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development(ZIMCODD) and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches(ZCC) brought together more 50 participants comprising of local traditional leaders, development coordinators, faith leaders, community members, civil society organisations and journalists drawn from the Midlands Province who gathered for the 2020 Great Dyke Provincial Alternative Mining Indaba.
Acknowledging the country’s diverse mineral resource base and recognising the need to entrench, good, transparent and accountable governance of natural resources;
Mindful of the significance of ensuring that citizens are mobilized and empowered to actively participate in the formulation and implementation of policies that enable transformative and sustainable socio-economic development hinged on mineral wealth exploitation;
However, troubled by the growing levels of inequality in resource rich communities. Zimbabwe’s mining sector is plagued by corruption, lack of transparency, as well as limited access to information and public participation in decision making processes. As a result, revenue from minerals resources (diamonds, gold and platinum among others) has so far failed to meaningfully benefit the country and communities.
Saddened by the impact of COVID-19 which has gravely disrupted the whole mining supply chain, affected economies, the social fabric, and stretched service delivery capacities. We are dismayed by some of the mining sector players’ failure to fully contribute towards economic development and improved service delivery.
Traumatised by machete wielding gangs who over the years have become a marauding menace. However, we appreciate the concerted efforts by the Zimbabwe Republic Police to stamp against these bands although we are disheartened to note that the ZRP’s intensified operation code named ‘Chikorokoza Ngachipere’ is also targeting artisanal miners. The machete wielding gangs must not be mistaken for artisanal miners who have resorted to artisanal mining for livelihood purposes. The sector is employing a significant number of people affected by massive unemployment and climatic shocks.
Disheartened by the operations of the Chinese mining companies particularly those in the chrome mining sector’s failure to abide by the environmental laws and regulations. After operating some of these companies abandon the shafts without reclaiming them. These shafts are now posing danger to both humans and livestock.
It is our belief that all stakeholders should be involved in the management of natural resources and the management of revenue for development. The local community must be consulted, while their needs and aspirations must be considered.
Given the country’s vast mineral resource endowments, if judiciously exploited they can lead to inclusive and sustainable socio-economic growth, poverty alleviation, reduction of inequalities and dignity of life through transformative industrialization and job creation.
We the 2020 Great Dyke PAMI participants recommend as follows:
- Stakeholders must undertake a needs assessment with respect to locals’ needs a progressive measure in empowering them to demand for better transparency and accountability in mineral resource management;
- To ensure a fair share of revenue to the local authority there is a need of alignment of legislation. Partnerships are also required between local authorities and mining companies to improve on the general quality of life for people within the host community;
- Formalization of the ASM sector is long overdue. It will ensure curbing of gold leakages and increased deliverables to Fidelity Printers and Refiners. The ASM sector should be looked at as equal contributor in the mining sector rather than criminalizing it;
- Government and local authorities should make efforts to promote public disclosure of the ownership structure of mining companies operating in the country as a way of promoting transparency and accountability. Local authorities on the other hand should publicly disclose the revenues and payments they receive from mining companies as a way of promoting public accountability and transparency as contemplated by the Constitution;
- All themining companies should carry out full Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and comply with their commitments. The mining companies must comply with environmental management plans, including mine closure plans and post closure plans as required by the Environmental Management Act;
- The reform of the archaic Mines and Minerals Act is needed. It is fundamental for the reform process to embrace artisanal mining in line with the aspirations of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) and decriminalizing a livelihood for millions of Africans;
- The coronavirus has disproportionately increased the rate of children involved in artisanal gold mining activities. Therefore, there is need for stakeholders to ensure that the opening of schools after the lockdowns is accompanied by nationwide reintegration campaigns to prevent children from dropping out of school;
- Mining companies should be closely monitored for compliance with labour, environment, worker safety and health laws and standards.
“Promoting Safe and Responsible Investment”