The impact of COVID-19 on the extractives sector: Amplifying community voices in fighting inequality and mining related injustices
Dated: 15 August 2020
On the15th 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 than 50 participants comprising of local traditional leaders, development coordinators, faith leaders, community members, civil society organisations and journalists drawn from Manicaland who gathered at Mutare Holiday Inn for the 2020 Provincial Alternative Mining Indaba.
Recognising the intricate nature of Zimbabwe’s protracted national problems that connect the social, economic and political spheres. Despite mineral resource endowment, poverty, inequality, food insecurity, conflicts, violence and public infrastructure decay have entrenched vulnerability of mineral rich communities.
Noting the need to bring together a range of stakeholders to enhance citizen agency to confront economic, social, political and environmental drivers of inequalities in the extractive sector and proffer recommendations to the government.
The Alternative Mining Indaba’s signature objective is to ensure 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. 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. This vision is also enshrined in the Africa Mining Vision (AMV).
Realising that, the ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra has brought renewed confidence among some of the investors such as Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond producer by output, the recent relaunch of Anjin Diamond Mine among others. As we all work together in promoting the country’s business environment, it is important for the investors to ensure that communities are consulted, involved and consent to these development projects.
Mining companies must ensure their workers are provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) while surrounding communities must be equally supported. During natural disasters such as the Covid-19 pandemic, these investors must respond to the plight of communities and ensure they contribute towards local community’ stimulus business initiatives. The voices of locals must be amplified for the common good.
Pleased to note that the Constitution speaks to the aspect of National Development, Section 13 (4) compels the State to put mechanism to ensure locals benefit from resources in their localities while also calling for the adoption of frameworks that promote transparency in the extractives sector such as the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative.
Disheartened by the diamond mining companies’ weak approach to corporate social responsibility which has further widened the inequality gap in the mining communities.
Mindful of the significance of taking action to enhance mining revenue disclosure and participation in open contracting. Open contracting is one of the best practices and for those governments that have enacted legal frameworks supportive of transparent public contracting, several benefits have been noted. There is evidence that these frameworks serve as safeguards against corruption.
We the 2020 Manicaland PAMI partakers recommend as follows:
- Mining investors must ensure that they shoulder the responsibility of guaranteeing the safety of their employees and surrounding communities. This is one of several progressive ways to compensate the mining-affected communities for loss of their land, livelihoods and the destructive environmental impacts of mining;
- We have realised that inequality is a policy choice. Zimbabwe is ranked 135 out of 157 on the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index 2018.Bridging the inequality gap also entails employing progressive taxation where corporations and the richest individuals are taxed more in order to redistribute these resources amongst the ordinary citizens and ensure the funding of public services;
- There is strong evidence that higher wages for ordinary workers and stronger labour rights, especially for women, are key to reducing inequality;
- Transparency and equity must be promoted in the extractives sector to manage environmental degradation, economic disturbance, population displacement, income inequality, poverty and instability;
- Under Zimbabwe’s new Companies and Other Business Entities Act, companies are required to file details of all their beneficial owners with the Registrar of Companies. Zimbabwe’s beneficial ownership register must be public. This will help deter money laundering, tax evasion, illicit financial flaws and corruption;
- Skills development for local communities must be enhanced so that alternative economic activities are established to support them during and after resource extraction;
- Investors must ensure they fully engage locals through Free, Prior and Informed Consent which promotes the right of indigenous communities to participate; Communities displaced to make way for mining operations must be fully compensated;
- Mineral revenue must be equitably distributed while corruption must be nipped in the bud;
- Investors must adopt Grievance redress mechanisms (GRM). A GRM is a set of arrangements that enable local communities, employees and other affected stakeholders to raise grievances with the investor or Company and seek redress when they perceive negative impacts arising from the investor’s activities.
“Promoting Safe and Responsible Investment”