Is Mining Really 'On Top' in Africa?Published by MAC on 2015-06-29
Source: London Mining Network, War on Want
London is host every year to a number of mining conferences, where company executives mix with financiers and government officials. The most important of these is called Mines & Money, leaving little doubt as to the motives of the organisers (the Mining Journal).
One of the more worrisome in recent years was the Mining On Top Africa: London Summit held recently in the UK capital.
Although the conference was advertised as addressing the ‘social and economic development' of Africa, those who attended (and forked out expensive fees for the purpose) were the familiar bunch of industry and government representatves we've come to expect at such events.
Conspicuously absent were any representatives of African communities or the continents's civil society - those able to impart insight and convey their concerns about the social and environmental effects of mining.
In fact, some African civil society groups, supported by their allies in the UK, had written to the conference organisers, objecting to the lack of direct community participation, and pointing out that this stripped the conference of any legitimacy to discuss development issues.
The letter (copied below) was accompanied by a ten case studies highlighting the ecological and social destruction caused by mining in Africa.
This was handed in to the conference, accompanied by a mock auction outside the hotel venue, organised by the Gaia Foundation, London Mining Network, War on Want, Divest London, Global Justice Now, Stop Mad Mining and other groups, to simulate the "carve up" of Africa taking place inside.
You can read a report of the activities around the protest by Hal Rhoades. An article by Yes to Life, No to Mining co-ordinator Juliana Thornton addresses "Corporate Social Investment", describing how mining companies take autonomy and sustainability from communities with one hand, while ‘giving’ dependency, broken promises and destruction, with the other.
African Civil Society Challenges London Conference and Asks: “Is Mining Really ‘On Top’ in Africa?”
Joint Press Release
25 June 2015
Today civil society groups from Africa and their allies in the UK submitted an open letter to the organisers and delegates of the Mining on Top Africa: London Summit in central London. The letter challenges the validity and motivations of the Summit, which civil society says lacks representation from African communities and civil society, and ignores the negative impacts of mining in Africa.
The letter will be complemented by a mock auction outside the summit, dramatising and drawing attention to the UK’s role in facilitating what campaigners see as an attempt by corporations to carve-up Africa’s mineral wealth behind closed doors.
Highlighting the displacement, poverty, illness, massive pollution, loss of fertile agricultural and ancestral land, destruction of livelihoods and culture that Africans are suffering due to large-scale mining, the letter states that communities are “seeing little-to-no benefit from Africa’s mining boom” despite the insistence of mining companies that they are agents of local and national development.
Juliana Thornton from the Mupo Foundation (South Africa) commented that “Mining on Top Africa claims to ‘drive economic and social development in Africa’ but fails to create spaces to hear the voices of African communities and civil society members who are affected on the frontline, and whose voices should matter the most. In their absence the Summit appears to be little more than a modern-day carve-up of Africa, with the imperial powers of old now replaced by massive multinationals engaging in forms of neo-colonial exploitation that are destroying Africa.”
A series of case studies including examples of mining’s negative impacts on communities in Africa, and community resistance to mining across the continent will be submitted alongside the letter. These detail:
- Communities resisting MRC Ltd.'s mineral sands mining on South Africa’s Wild Coast, where local residents have been subjected to physical attacks and intimidation by persons believed to be beneficiaries of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility funds.
- Mass tax evasion in Zambia: Zambians, many of whom live on less than $1.25-a-day, are losing billions of dollars each year to mining multinationals and officials profiting from tax avoidance, evasion, corruption and a lax tax regime.
- A behind the scenes look at Corporate Social Investment (CSI) and Greenwashing in South Africa from a former CSI worker.
- The resettlement of whole villages in Sierra Leone and their dependency on food and water provided by African Minerals Ltd; a company that is now bankrupt leaving villagers facing further disaster if their supplies stop.
- Four decades of oil extraction in the Niger Delta in Nigeria. A country that has been transformed from major agricultural producer to oil dependency.
The letter further criticises the dubious role that London and the UK Government play in the Summit. London is a leading global centre for mining finance, with billions of pounds of investment money flowing through it into mining projects around the world. The signatories claim that the UK Government actively encourages destructive mining through its diplomatic support for companies listed on the London Stock Exchange, its failure to exercise adequate regulatory oversight and its involvement in events such as the Mining on Top Africa London Summit.
- Notes to Editors -
The Mining on Top Africa: London Summit is taking place at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel in Embankment between 24th and 26th June 2015. Full details of the conference can be found here: http://miningontopafrica.com
The Action will take place on Thursday 25th June outside the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel, 18 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TJ between 6pm-7pm.
The Action is being coordinated by the following organisations: The Gaia Foundation, War on Want, Divest London, London Mining Network, Stop Mad Mining plus allies from African civil society.
For press enquiries contact any of the following:
Hannibal Rhoades (The Gaia Foundation)
+44 (0) 7909953431
Richard Solly (London Mining Network)
+44 (0) 7903851695
Ross Hemingway (War on Want)
+44 (0) 7983 550 728
Organisations who have signed the letter include:
The Global Environmental Trust, Save Our iMfolozi Wilderness, South Africa
The Mupo Foundation, Yes to Life, No to Mining, South Africa
Friends of the Earth Uganda
National Association of Professional Environmentalists, Uganda
Network for Women´s Rights and Feminist Perspectives in Development
African Biodiversity Network, Kenya
EnAct International, South Africa
Agrarian Reform for Food Sovereignty Campaign
South African Food Sovereignty Campaign
Snowchange Cooperative, Scandinavia
The Coal Action Network, UK
The ICCA Consortium
Grabe Benin, Benin
World Neighbors, founder member of Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)
Botswana Climate Change Network, Botswana
Groupe de Réflexion et d'Action sur les Industries Extractives au Niger
Divest London, UK
Global Justice Now, UK
The Gaia Foundation, UK
Global Justice Forum
London Mining Network, UK
Stop Mad Mining, UK
War on Want, UK
Delegates and Organisers of the Mining on Top Africa: London Summit
25 June 2015
We, members of African and UK civil society and communities, are aggrieved that the Mining on Top Africa: London Summit lacks meaningful representation from African civil society and communities, and ignores the negative impacts of mining in Africa.
Our organisations are rooted in and work alongside numerous communities across the African continent who endure the worst impacts of large-scale mining, without enjoying any of the purported benefits.
Many of these communities are facing displacement, poverty, illness, massive pollution, loss of fertile agricultural and ancestral land, destruction of livelihoods and culture due to the introduction of large-scale mining. Seeing little-to-no benefit from Africa’s mining boom, a growing number are saying Yes to Life, No to Mining, protecting sustainable, regenerative livelihoods and affirming their basic human right to define their own development.
As a gathering supposedly hosted to 'drive economic and social development in Africa', it would seem imperative for the Mining on Top Africa: London Summit to create spaces to hear the voices of these African communities and civil society members.
Yet it is precisely these groups - and those working in solidarity with them – that are being excluded from discussions. In their absence the Summit appears to be little more than a modern-day carve-up of Africa, with the imperial powers of old now replaced by massive multinationals engaging in similar forms of colonial exploitation that are destroying Africa.
In particular, we note that the only official civil society speaker at the Summit appears to be talking from a Northern development NGO, and a business-oriented perspective on companies’ social license to operate. This is revealing, as many of our communities are realising that Corporate Social Investment and Responsibility are purely ways to justify the companies’ social licence and bolster their image. We are sure the attendees from extractive industry companies may be happy to hear this, but it is less clear how such presentations will provide meaningful information on the real concerns of local communities and how they see their development unfolding.
To ensure that the concerns of African communities, and the many examples of serious mining abuses committed against them, do not go unheard, at the end of this letter we include cases that partners have asked us to highlight. They reveal the following trends plaguing mining in Africa:
- Ecosystem destruction and the persistent pollution of air, water and land with grave health impacts for human communities and many other species.
- Human rights abuses including killings and physical abuse that often disproportionately affect women.
- Evictions and the forcible relocation of communities.
- The failure of Corporate Social Responsibility and Investment programmes.
- The loss of billions of dollars of mining profits from African economies as a result of illicit financial flows, corruption and corporate malfeasance.
- The threat further investment in fossil fuel extraction, and thus climate change, poses to future generations.
That the Mining on Top Africa Summit excludes the voices of the peoples directly affected by trauma and loss as a result of the extractive industries strips the event of all legitimacy and any association with development. This is all the more unforgivable for the government agencies involved, such as the UK’s DfID, who are meant to be promoting inclusive development.
Sadly, it is fitting that this carve-up should take place in London, with the active encouragement of the British Government.
London is the leading global centre for mining finance, with billions of pounds of investment money flowing through it into destructive mining projects around the world. The UK Government actively encourages such destructive mining through its diplomatic support for London-listed mining companies, its shocking failure to exercise adequate regulatory oversight and its involvement in gatherings such as this one.
Acknowledging our connection through our common humanity, we as members of African and UK civil society demand that the mining industry hears and respects the wishes of communities who reject the destruction mining brings. We demand that the UK ends its promotion of and support for mining destruction.
In solidarity with communities in Africa devastated by destructive mining, and those resisting fresh waves of exploitation, we call for an end to the corporate carve-up of Africa.
Sheila Berry for
Global Environmental Trust
Save Our iMfolozi Wilderness (S.Africa)
Juliana Thornton for
Mupo Foundation, (South Africa)
Yes to Life, No to Mining Southern Africa
Kureeba David and Shillar Osinde for
National Association of Professional Environmentalists (Uganda)
Milena Müller-Schöffmann for
WIDE -Network for Women´s Rights and Feminist Perspectives in Development
Simon Mitambo for
African Biodiversity Network
Cormac Cullinan for
Davine Cloete for
Agrarian Reform for Food Sovereignty Campaign
South African Food Sovereignty Campaign (South Africa)
Sociology Department, Wits University (South Africa)
Sandy Heather for
Sustaining the Wild Coast (South Africa)
Francis Smith for
GEOSURE (South Africa)
Emma Courtine for
ICCA Consortium (Worldwide)
OUSSOU LIO Appolinaire for
GRABE BENIN (Benin)
Chris Macoloo for
World Neighbors, founder member of Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)
William F. Laurance, PhD, FAA, FAAAS for
Tracy Sonny for
Botswana Climate Change Network
Solli Ramatou for
Groupe de Réflexion et d'Action sur les
Industries Extractives au Niger (GREN Niger)
Ferrial Adam for
Dr Tracy Humby, Research Associate, SWOP and Associate Professor for
School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)
Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor
Foundation For Environmental Rights,Advocacy & Development(FENRAD) (Nigeria)
Daniel Banuoku and Bern Guri
Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD) Ghana)
Geoffrey and Sharon Joyce Smailles
Unaffiliated, South Africa
Fe Haslam for
Global Justice Forum (UK/Africa)
Joleen Wilson and Astika Bugheloo for
Afzelia Environmental Consultants (PTY)Ltd (South Africa)
Mag.Manfred Golda for
Protestant Association for Word Mission, EAWM (Austria)
Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Wits University (South Africa)
Tony Dykes for
ACTSA (South Africa)
John Cunnington for
Marirosa Ianelli for
Stop Water Grabbing
Kofi Mawuli Klu for
Esther Stanford-Xosei for
Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe (PARCOE) (UK)
Hannibal Rhoades for
The Gaia Foundation (UK)
Yes to Life, No to Mining EU
Richard Solly for
London Mining Network (UK)
Tom Lebert for
War on Want (UK)
David Powe for
Divest London (UK)
Andy Whitmore for
Stop Mad Mining (EU)
Christine Haigh for
Global Justice Now (UK)
Jamie Kneen for
Mining Watch Canada
Tero Mustonen for
Snowchange Cooperative (EU)
Anne Harris for
The Coal Action Network (UK)
Helena Paul for
Africa: A continent of wealth, a continent of poverty
by Tom Lebert, senior international programme officer (Resources & Conflict) at War on Want
24 June 2015
There has been much talk of an African renaissance in recent years. Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's second post-apartheid president has spoken of a 'rebirth that must encompass all Africans'. So as African politicians and mining companies convene in London this week for 'Mining on Top' - Africa's annual mining summit - where are the voices of civil society? Their absence speaks volumes.
Africa is blessed with a rich bounty of natural resources. The continent holds around 30% of the world's known mineral reserves. These include cobalt, uranium, diamonds and gold, as well as significant oil and gas reserves. Given this natural wealth, it comes as no surprise that with the tripling of global mineral and oil prices in the past decade, mining has exploded on the African continent.
Over the period 2000 to 2008 resource extraction contributed more that 30 percent of Africa's GDP, while the annual flow of foreign direct investment into Africa increased from $9 billion to $62 billion (most of this into extractive industries). However, despite being so richly endowed, and despite the mining boom of the past decade, Africa has drawn little benefit from this mineral wealth and remains one the poorest continents on the globe, with almost fifty per cent of the population living on less than $1.25 per day.
Exploitation and corruption
So, why is it that a continent with such vast potential wealth can remain so poor? It's in large part down to 'Illicit financial flows'. The illegal movements of money or capital from one country to another. The exploitation of mineral resources has all too often led to corruption, and a large proportion of the continent's resources and revenues benefitting local and foreign elites rather than the general population.
Trade mispricing (and in particular transfer pricing and trade misinvoicing) is the most common way of transferring illicit funds abroad. Through trade mispricing companies seek to maximise profits artificially through maximising expenses in high tax jurisdictions and maximising revenue and income in low tax jurisdictions. This enables corporations to minimise tax payments illegally and transfer the funds abroad.
Such illicit flows undermine social development and stymy inclusive economic growth. Instead of investing resource revenues into improving infrastructure, health and education, political elites, often in collusion with mining companies, have siphoned off proceeds from the continent's mineral and oil wealth – lining their own pockets, to the detriment of ordinary Africans.
The biggest culprit: the mining industry
Zambia on the face of it is a wealthy country – the largest producer of copper in Africa and the seventh largest globally. Yet Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world with 74 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day and 43 percent of the population being undernourished. This is in part due to a haemorrhaging of wealth mainly to multinational mining companies.
According to the Zambian Deputy Finance Minister, in 2012 the country was losing $2 billion a year from tax avoidance, around 10 per cent of Zambia's GDP. The mining industry was the biggest culprit and the bulk of the loss was attributed to transfer pricing - where parts of the same company trade with each other at prices determined by themselves - and to the over-reporting of costs and under-reporting of production. The situation is compounded by overly-generous tax incentives provided to companies by the Zambian government.
The Zambian example is not an isolated case. Such corporate practices in the mining sector are common right across the continent. In South Africa, illegal capital flight through trade-misinvoicing (a means to evade tax) is rife in the ores and metals sector. Over the period 1995 to 2006, trade misinvoicing alone amounted to US$ 167 million. And when it comes to fuel exporting countries, over the period 1970 to 2008, states were losing on average US$ 10 billion per year because of misinvoicing - the sum accounting for nearly half of all illicit financial flows from Africa during this time. Moreover, statistical data generated through the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, which was introduced in 2003, revealed that diamond production was nearly twice as large as estimated indicating massive smuggling, underreporting and tax evasion in the sector. The list goes on.
Transparency and playing by the rules
So, what is to be done? At the heart of any solution must be transparency. Countries need to be more open in their dealings with mining companies, put in place and enforce fairer tax regimes and anti-corruption rules, and pursue economic policies that promote diversified economies and reduce dependence on revenues from mineral wealth. International mining capital of course would also have to play by the rules or be held to account for their indiscretions. Such measures would go some way to ensuring that the continent's wealth benefits ordinary people and puts Africa onto a path to greater prosperity.
Mining routinely disrupts and destroys people's livelihoods while damaging their health and the environment. It is local communities right across the continent that are most affected by the extractives industry. 'Mining on Top' should be the perfect opportunity to bring these communities into the very discussions that will affect their lives. Shamefully, they've not been invited. So while the mining elite discuss how best to exploit a continent, ordinary Africans continue to lose out