MAC: Mines and Communities

Africa's Seventh Alternative Mining Indaba

Published by MAC on 2016-02-12
Source: Statement, Business Day, IOL (2016-02-11)

For the seventh year members of Africa civil society, plus their international supporters, gathered to challenge South Africa's major mining conference, as the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI).

As in previous years they have issues a joint communique, copied below.

However, some voices in civil society are critical of the direction the AMI is taking, accusing it of becoming less concerned withth voices of communities, and more concerned with the inclusion of business.

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Previous article on MAC: Africa: Communities speak out at Alternative Mining Indaba

Protesters slam mining talks

By Dominic Adriaanse

Independent online (South Africa)

11 February 2016

Cape Town - Protesters marched yesterday in a bid to highlight the impact mining has on humans, the environment and animals.

The protest was staged at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) as the Mining Indaba entered its third day.

“Africa is a mineral-rich continent, yet the indaba focuses only on the profits and not the health risks, pollution of the environment and the consequences of miners no longer able to work.

“The current Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act needs to be re-evaluated as our vision is to ensure that natural resources work for all the people,” said Simon Vilakazi, programme co-ordinator of the Alternative Mining Indaba.

He is also a member of the Economic Justice Network (EJN) of the Fellowship of Councils of Churches in Southern Africa.

About 300 supporters of both organisations took part in the protest.

EJN executive director Malcolm Damon said the organisation was established because the Mining Indaba focused on investments and not the people.

“To register for the indaba alone costs $2,000 (R31 740) and it’s impossible for the poor communities to attend.

“How we can make industry and government aware of the communities who are not consulted or benefited by natural resources?” said Damon.

EJN member Moreblessings Chidaushe, from Zimbabwe, said: “We are not the enemy of the government or industry, we are saying, ‘let’s talk and work together’.

“We are the same people and we are not against mining, let’s just make it work for all the people.”

Mining communities out in the cold over compensation

by Brendan Boyle

5 February 2016

WHEN the Mapela community’s long fight with Anglo American Platinum turned violent in September, a new and still unoccupied old-age home donated by the company was one of the buildings that went up in flames.

With it went the sympathy of many who might otherwise have cheered the Limpopo community’s effort to save a school they had built and paid for under apartheid from being buried beneath a mine waste dump.

Ngoako Ramatlhodi, the mining minister at the time, visited Mapela soon after the long-running campaign turned violent and helped negotiate a settlement that saw the threatened Seritarita High School reopened. His intervention doused the flames of protest, but the community has had no sign since his unexplained removal by President Jacob Zuma, barely days later, that the new minister, Mosebenzi Zwane, will pick up where he left off.

The context for the apparently bizarre tactic of destroying a brand-new building in support of a broader fight for a decent share of mining’s riches is laid bare in a report due for first release at next week’s Alternative Mining Indaba in Cape Town.

The report by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand confirms the perception among mine-hosting communities that the state’s strategy to democratise the benefits of mining is failing.

Meeting in a working-class district within walking distance of the Investing in African Mining Indaba at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, community delegates, researchers and planners at the alternative event will explore life on the wrong side of mining’s self-congratulatory corporate looking glass.

Many will have been sponsored privately to travel by bus and taxi from beyond Pretoria, where the mining actually happens, to share the experience and solidarity of others also hoping to mitigate the destructive effects of mining.

"The legacy of mining in SA is one of stark disparity between mine workers and communities on the one hand, and mining management, financiers and shareholders on the other," reads the opening lines of the report. That contrast is underlined by the opulence of the main conference, where investors will have paid R30,000 a head for the networking and deal-making opportunities that are the main attraction.

All the community delegates can do at their shadow event is work out how best to live with the mining that will flow from the deals struck over the Champagne and caviar of the main indaba.

Although the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002 nationalised the country’s underground resources and committed to ensuring a more equitable sharing of their benefits, it denies affected communities the right to say no to mining on or under their land.

Instead, it lays the ground for the Mining Charter, which has since set targets for black ownership of mines and demands a plan from each mine on how it will boost the development of affected communities.

The official launch of the centre’s year-long analysis of these social and labour (SLP) plans is March 30, but the researchers have scheduled a limited first release of their findings at the alternative indaba. The report exposes the habit of mining companies deciding with little or no consultation how to compensate host communities for the destruction of their lives and livelihoods.

It also goes some way towards explaining the apparent ingratitude of the Mapela community for the unwanted gift.

Urban executives with an SLP budget to spend may think it obvious that an impoverished village outside Mokopane would want a clean and dry home for their aged relatives. That’s the way it’s done in the suburbs. But to the people of Mapela, where caring for the aged at home is a given, it seemed an arrogant abuse of scarce resources when all the mine owners had to do was ask them what they wanted most.

"Communities have the right to determine their own development agenda, and their opinions must be constructively and effectively considered and incorporated," the centre says in its analysis of 50 such plans. These are loosely mandated by law as a precondition for the award of a mining licence. More detail about what they should cover is included in nonbinding guidelines last updated in October 2010.

The plans are supposed to ensure development in the areas from which migrant miners mostly come, as well as the mine’s immediate neighbourhood, and the empowerment of mine workers through improved living and learning conditions. Employment, education, development of small businesses, infrastructure improvement and poverty alleviation are among the approved targets.

Given the generally informal nature of most mining areas in the former homelands, however, housing is generally regarded as one of the most important interventions a mine can make. The promise of 5,500 new houses was prominent in Lonmin’s 2006 plan for its Marikana platinum mines near Rustenburg. But by the time of the police massacre of 34 workers there in August 2012, only three had been built.

The report shows that this sort of failure is a pattern across the industry, where initial promises can be downgraded with the permission of the mining minister — and with no notice to the community concerned. It also underlines the almost total lack of transparency in the drafting, execution and monitoring of such plans. The reality is that few communities have ever seen or heard of the plan that is supposed to ensure they are net beneficiaries of the decision to mine on or under their land.

The centre concludes from its research that traditional leaders are most often consulted on ways to mitigate the economic, social and environmental effects of mining. Their advice is usually self-serving, and the benefits frequently flow to them.

"Only 4% of the SLP sample explained how they were influenced by the expressed needs of communities beyond the government and traditional authorities," the researchers report.

The centre identified seven key areas in which the system is failing:

The centre’s report covers the first of three phases of research. Further research will deliver more specific information on implementation and suggestions for improvement.

But, as the report concludes, the work already done shows: "The urgency of achieving social justice in the mining sector requires far-reaching change in which communities and workers must be afforded the space to be central participants."

Boyle is a senior researcher with the University of Cape Town’s Land and Accountability Research Centre

AMI 2016 Final Communiqué

10 February 2016

We, the representatives of more than 350 members of civil society organisations; faith based organisations, Pan-African networks and organisations, labour movements, industry associations, media, international partners and community based organisations, have met from 8th – 10th February, 2015, in Cape Town, South Africa, to share experiences and deliberate on the role and the impacts of extractives on communities, the environment, animal life and society at large.

This marking the 7th year of the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI) which has now grown from just 40 to more than 350 delegates, mostly from Africa.


1. We call on government to create and implement effective legal mechanisms to investigate and prosecute environmental damage.
2. We call on government to promote beneficiation plans.
3. We call on government, companies and civil society to review social labour plans emanating from extractive activities.
4. We call on governments and companies to protect communities’ safety from the threat of coercion, duress or intimidation.
5. We call on governments and companies to recognise and respect the right of communities to say “no” to mining projects or to the terms of proposals and contracts by recognising the principles of community consent for non-Indigenous communities and free, prior and informed consent for indigenous communities.
6. We call on governments and companies to compensate beyond land value for the negative social, environmental, cultural and emotional impacts of mining activities as found through social and environmental impact assessments.
7. We call on governments to enact and implement national laws supporting and strengthening international legal instruments such as the African Charter and customary laws which recognise property and cultural rights.
8. We call on governments to be held accountable for proactively involving communities in the decision making process regarding the expenditure of tax revenues for community benefits through enhanced transparency and accountability.
9. We call on civil society to raise awareness of SLAPPs
10. We call on civil society to develop strong networks of lawyers across the world to share impacts of litigation and help establish legal principles in domestic jurisprudence to promote rule of law decisionmaking and environmental justice.


1. We call for governments to decriminalise artisanal mining, hereinafter referred to as “ASM.”
2. We call on governments to enact or implement legislation that empowers ASM communities depending on mining for their livelihoods.
3. We call on governments to rehabilitate abandoned mines to help protect and ensure safety for ASMs, many of whom disappear in abandoned mines.
4. We call on government to hold police officers involved in gold smuggling accountable for their transgressions and protect community members from their abuse.
5. We call on government to formalise ASM in order to help curb violence emanating from competition for the ability to mine in specific spaces.
6. We call on governments to draft and enact legislation protecting artisanal miners from exploitation and repossession of equipment by vendors.
7. We call on governments to support sustainable rural development such that ASMs can have viable alternatives to make a reasonable living with food security and other economic, social, and cultural rights protected.
8. We call on companies to end the practice of using ASMs as providers of cheap products to then on-sell and to provide fair prices for our resources.
9. We call on civil society to help provide trainings to miners on environmental, health and safety standards and technological improvements as formalisation of the sector occurs in order to be more inclusive of women and youth participating in ASM.
10. We call on civil society to find ways to engage mining communities where ASM activities occur within the policy process.
11. We call on civil society to take up the pragmatic fight for the rights of ASMs beyond workshops.
12. We call on civil society to help encourage diversification of economies in order to help communities become less dependent on minerals.


1. We call on corporations, governments and civil society to engage in all aspects of extractive industries through constructive dialogue within the framework of human rights protections as described in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (such as the right to civil and political participation).
2. We call on corporations and governments to develop, implement and enforce appropriate grievance mechanisms for communities and individuals whose rights have been violated.
3. We call on investors to disinvest from companies that perpetrate human rights violations thus holding the companies accountable for their conduct.
4. We call on government to ensure that the rights of communities are protected and that the international law principle of free, prior, and informed consent by communities, not just their leaders, is observed before exploration licences are granted.
5. We call on governments to enact and revise laws and policies that maximise sustainable benefits for communities with input and engagement from civil society.
6. We call on governments to hold the corrupt within its ranks and within private security accountable through closer monitoring of the sector and protection of human rights.
7. We call on civil society to demand more tax revenues from extractives to fund projects that benefit the affected communities.
8. We call on civil society and governments to ensure that Social Labour Plans include a plan to combat the invasive nature of the activities undertaken by the extractives industries.
9. We call on civil society to advocate for the adoption of an internationally binding legal instrument that holds business accountable for human rights abuses.
10. We call on international human rights mechanisms to protect the rights of activists and communities and to promote their rights at an international level.


1. We call on governments to create space for civil society and communities to strengthen dialogue on setting national priorities and the utilisation of mining revenue and other public resources.
2. We call on governments and companies to publish contracts for public scrutiny in order to create accountability for tax and royalty revenues.
3. We call on governments to increase the taxation on big companies by reducing incentives in order to increase the funding available for transparent funding for localised infrastructure projects such as, roads, clinics, and schools.
4. We call on governments to strengthen tax legislation, revenue authorities, and legislation as the most sustainable way to create revenues for development.
5. We call on governments to remove fiscal incentives, such as tax holidays and VAT refunds, given to mining companies and the number of deductions given based on social investments.
6. We call on governments to strengthen institutional structures responsible for mining taxation, and foster cooperation and coordination among government agencies (e.g. Ministry of Finance and Mines). These agencies should share information and specialised skill in order to overcome the complexity of administering mining revenue collection and minimise ministerial or agency discretion.
7. We call on government to strengthen collaboration on financial transparency by demanding country-by-country reporting by multinational corporations and their subsidiaries, automatic exchange of information between Africa and its trading partners and disclosure of beneficial owners of shell companies and anonymous trust accounts.
8. We call on governments to leverage on their collaboration under the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to harmonise their finance, investment and taxation policies to avoid tax competition. At national level, governments should develop a clear criterion for determining royalty rates based on economic and noneconomic costs and benefits of extraction rather than simply benchmarking with other countries which leads to a “race to the bottom.”
9. We call on government and civil society to build and strengthen the capacity of institutions at political, regulatory and administrative levels with a view to improve negotiation skills, monitor production figures, assess profit tax liability and royalty payments and respond to, and detect transfer mispricing which is complex in nature and erodes the tax base.
10. We call on civil society and governments to conduct robust research before creating mining policy and granting mining licenses.


1. We call on companies and governments to proactively create space for women’s voices in decision-making processes that directly or indirectly affect them due to extractive operations (before, during and after operations).
2. We call on companies and governments to honour legally binding contracts which include corporate social responsibility activities with all
citizens, especially women.
3. We call on government and companies to include gender impact indicators within all environmental and social impact assessments.
4. We call on government to create a strong legal framework that mainstreams gender into the spending of extractives revenues.
5. We call on government need to expand economic opportunities; strengthen agency of information access as well as deconstruct norms, and facilitate institutional mechanisms for women.
6. We call on governments to respect and increase women’s land rights, particularly for those using their land for agriculture purposes.
7. We call on civil society to work to increase our engagement with academia, women’s rights organisations, and unions in order to ensure gender sensitivity, strong political analysis and evidence-based advocacy on gender.
8. We call on our civil society to emphasise the effectiveness, not just the numbers of women in influential and powerful positions.

We hereby affirm our commitment to the above stated issues and pledge our ongoing support on the same with unflinching resolve. We are also committed to working together with governments, corporations and communities and other progressive forces to ensure that these demands are met.

Declared at the 7th Alternative Mining indaba held in Cape Town, South Africa on 10 February 2016 with participants from: Zimbabwe, Zambia, USA, UK, Uganda, Thailand, Tet, Tanzania, Switzerland, Sweden, Swaziland, South Sudan, South Africa, Senegal, Norway, Nigeria, Netherlands, Myanmar, Mozambique, Mauritius, Mali, Malawi, Liberia, Lesotho, Kenya, Ghana, Germany, Denmark, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Colombia, Canada, Cameroon, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Austria, Australia, and Angola.

Environmental laws to be better upheld

By: Dineo Faku

Independent online (South Africa)

9 February 2016

Johannesburg - Representatives of mining communities have called for mine executives to be sued in their personal capacity for environmental damage done to communal land.

The representatives told the Alternative Mining Indaba in Cape Town yesterday that the government also needed to step up its implementation of Social and Labour Plans (SLPs).

Delegates heard that even though the litigation process was expensive and protracted, it had become an important strategy to improve the livelihoods of mining communities.

Matome Kapa, an attorney at the Centre for Environmental Rights, said mining companies were failing to adhere to environmental legislation and the government had failed to enforce environmental laws.

“We have now begun a strategy for communities to sue mining companies for infringing environmental laws. Laying criminal charges was not an easy process,” Kapa said, adding that a R10 million fine could be levied against the company and its directors.

In a landmark court ruling, the mining director of Blue Platinum Ventures in Tzaneen became the first mining boss to be found guilty of breaking environmental laws in 2014.

Traditional healers in Madimatle mountain, near Thabazimbi, have been up in arms over a decision by Aquila Steel to drill 200 holes, construct 33km of road and clear vegetation on the mountain without governmental consent.

They approached the Centre for Environmental Rights, Kapa said.

“Charges were laid in May. Laying criminal charges sounds like an easy process. But in order to lay charges, two of our advocates went to Thabazimbi because police don’t have the capacity to deal with environmental laws. There are a limited number of advocates in the National Prosecuting Authority that deal with environmental issues,” Kapa said.

“Laying of criminal charges could be one of the ways to make companies liable. If more criminal charges (were laid) people will demand for state advocates to focus on environmental rights. This will build capacity for the government.”

Implementation of the SLPs still remained a weakness, the delegates heard.

SLP failure

The SLPs, meant to address the legacy of apartheid, were not catering for communities, said Louis Snyman, an attorney and member of the Wits University’s Centre for Applied Legal Studies.

He blamed mining houses for failures in the implementation of the law, citing a draft study of 50 SLPs completed by the university last year.

“After the Marikana massacre we found SLPs are not being fulfilled. Normal people cannot access information. It is cumbersome, and expensive for communities to do so.”

Anglo Platinum chief executive Chris Griffith said it had consulted extensively but could not find a single voice that represented communities.

“Every day we consult with communities but there are splinter groups that flare up like firecrackers. We cannot engage with different people every day,” Griffith said.


We need a real “Alternatives to Mining” Indaba

Farai Maguwu and Christelle Terreblanche - Issue 762

16 February 2016

This year’s alternative to mining conference in South Africa was a failure in many ways. It shied away from critical discussions over the intersections between the energy crises, the escalating looting of Africa’s resources, its deepening poverty and food insecurity and especially its disproportional vulnerability to global warming. Why were these burning issues not prominent on the programme?

You could be forgiven for thinking you were attending a side-event at Cape Town’s glitzy annual Mining Indaba in early February, when the opening panel of a civil society meeting repeatedly stressed how crucial mining is for Africa’s ‘development.’

The challenge, many inferred, was merely to close the tax gaps that have led to massive illicit financial outflows, secreted away to offshore banking centres by looting corporations. Another concern was to ensure that affected communities get a bit more bang for their buck.

Not justice for the dispossessed, not radical measures to head off a climate emergency driven by fossil fuel mining; not an end to systemic violence (reflecting capital-state power, society-nature exploitation and patriarchy), and certainly no word about alternatives to mining. At a time of extreme crises in the mining industry – including 90% declines in stock market values of industry leaders Anglo American, Glencore and Lonmin – this was the moment to strike the Achilles Heel of minerals capitalism.

After all, the 7th Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI) speakers were talking on behalf of millions of Africans alienated from their land and livelihoods in an unprecedented scramble for Africa’s resources, mostly aided and abetted by corrupt local elites.

The outflow of non-renewable mineral wealth is said to be offset by attracting ‘much needed’ foreign direct investment, boosting national ‘growth’ (Gross Domestic Product) and creating jobs. But mining takes a massive toll on the prospects of future generations, on the environment and especially on already poor communities in the here and now.

This is a net outflow of wealth accompanied by an entrenchment of the structural violence that had torn the continent’s people apart for centuries. Above all, as the local elites are pocketing millions that fall from corporate tables, governments in Africa have slowed down on productive and sustainable sectors of their economies such as agriculture, renewable energy generation and manufacturing.

In most cases, that means rural communities are forcibly removed, ill-compensated (if at all), and suffer violent repression of protests and countless mining externalities such as dust, bad air, blasting and toxic water. Displaced from access to their reproductive resources, including growing food, women often bear the brunt of the violent dislocation. They live as the bottom layer at the edges of squalid mining towns where they render unpaid and devalued care work, but swell the increasingly feminised ranks of refugees on the continent.

Cheap migrant labour, after all, had cemented South Africa’s minerals-energy complex. This structural fault line creates poverty and inequality, on behalf of profits for transnational companies who were enticed to the African Mining Indaba by, among other things, golf days and music soirée treats.

So where were the countless African communities adversely affected by mining? A few were present among the 350-strong AMI delegates, but the event was dominated by NGOs, liberal funders and the faith community. The AMI programme contained fewer than a third of speakers who were community representatives. They were mostly given five-minute speaking slots to describe complex, multiple layers of dispossession.

A few more affected voices were heard in the side-sessions. As one woman from Mokopane in South Africa’s North West province, where the community had been fighting a seven year battle said: “When a woman loses land, (the family) can’t eat, we can’t produce”.

There are plenty of reasons for wondering what happened to a potential ‘alternative’ forum to garner much-needed solidarity action and justice for marginalised groups, while exposing mining atrocities – much like the World Social Forum is to the World Economic Forum.

Beyond this year’s less-than-ambitious AMI agenda, three trends were particularly indicative of this ‘alternative’ potential gone astray.

First, the opening remarks betrayed a certain apologetic tone. Almost every official speaker indicted mining as harmful. Nevertheless, all argued that mining must continue and can be reined in: mining is good for Africa because Africa needs development and must grow.

This is despite over 60 years of imposed development schemes that had left much of the continent more export-dependent and depleted than before, structurally skewed into uneven enclaves and politically captured by transnational corporations.

Across town, the mining corporates were consolidating their growing power over the continent’s resources, striking deals for big infrastructure and off-set schemes with governments – all of which lead to further land, water and ‘green grabs’ – resources enclosed purportedly to mitigate climate change that actually lead to further devastation and enclosure.

But all this is framed as ‘development,’ even ‘green’ development. The corporate AMI counterpart even had it’s own ‘sustainability’ day for the public this year, though few mining houses comply with environmental requirements.

The mining-for-development paradigm is increasingly questioned among progressives worldwide, especially in the Global South, given the role of fossil fuel and energy-intensive mineral extraction in escalating inequality, climate change and other socio-ecological problems.

The narrative of ‘mining ourselves out of poverty’ is now banal propaganda: from government, from big corporates and sadly, from civil society – which seemed to sing the same tune in Cape Town despite mounting evidence that this is a fallacy.

It is the ‘development’-at-any-cost mindset that underpins the African Mining Vision, of which the AMI only said: let’s ‘domesticate’ the corporate vision, through engagement and better consent and transparency mechanisms.

This already alludes to the second problem: the AMI once again failed to ‘connect the dots’ from mining to climate, electricity and economy, as Patrick Bond commented after the 2015 AMI gathering.

The conference unnecessarily shied away from critical discussions over the intersections between the energy crises (from South Africa’s crunch, coal addiction and nuclear ambitions to the fact that less than half of Africans have access to electricity), the escalating looting of Africa’s resources, its deepening poverty and food insecurity and especially its disproportional vulnerability to global warming.

Why were these burning issues not prominent on the programme? Where are the ‘alternatives’ –from food sovereignty to post-extractivism to ‘zero waste’ and solidarity economy pathways? Where are the discussions about real jobs that could also ward off catastrophic warming of the continent? Why does gender remain a side issue?

We can think of countless reasons why the climate change-mining link should have been a prominent theme of the 2016 AMI. Given AMI’s close relationship with the faith community, surely there was reason to take note of last year’s mea culpa intervention by the Pope’s ‘Encyclical’ on climate change that has quite a lot to say about mining impacts.

Then, the world watched in astonishment as the United Nation’s COP21 Paris climate talks condemned Africa to an almost certain ecocide. And we are acutely aware of the drought that is crippling farmers across southern Africa, the water crisis and the billions of dollars ‘fleeing’ the developing world as the capitalist financial crisis deepens.

As conference attendees sweltered in an unprecedented heat wave, how could the connection between extraction and climate not be centre-stage?

Lastly, the most disconcerting question: why is the AMI failing to follow through on its own resolutions? In 2014, the civil society gathering resolved to ‘name and shame’ transgressing companies. In 2015, it went further, resolving to hold a Mining Tribunal to hold companies accountable.

We are still waiting. Not that there has been lack of opportunity. It would have been easy enough to slot into a growing movement that held a Third International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature at the December 2015 Paris COP21, with mining corporations prominent among the indicted – and the event presided over by respected Cape Town lawyer Cormac Cullinan.

Indeed, it is unfortunate that no space has been created at the AMI for reflection on previous resolutions: progress, setbacks and the worsening trends in dispossession and inequality since its first meeting in 2010.

These omissions only reinforce a growing perception that the ‘alternative’ is just a space for victims of mining to blow off steam, while they are taught how to scrounge a few more crumbs from the looters’ banquet, via civilizing-society NGOs.

The mute tone at the opening session was also evident in this year’s communiqué to the main Indaba, with rather polite suggestions that governments do the things they already should be doing to reign in transnationals and protect their own people.

Sadly, the AMI’s narrative can hardly be distinguished from the official big boys’ Indaba – that Africa’s hopes of economic growth are inextricably pinned to extraction and export of raw minerals – an optimism negated by the history of mining in Africa.

There was no ‘thinking outside the box’ about what else Africa can do apart from destructive mining. No discussion on commodity price volatility, China’s economic slowdown and its effect on African economies that heavily rely on mineral extraction and export.

For instance, the price of iron ore has slumped from $150 per ton in 2013 to $65 per ton in February 2016; coal and platinum are not far behind. Several mining companies are slowing production and sending workers home to cope with the commodity prices slump. Many will be placed on care maintenance for a couple of years to come, thereby drilling holes in the minerals-for-development narrative. Vast chunks of mining land are now un-economic, to be scavenged –terribly dangerously – by gangs of desperate, informal artisanal miners.

But mentioning this harsh reality – the decisive end of the commodity super-cycle –would have dampened the optimism of believers: both those who genuinely and innocently believe mining to be a panacea to Africa’s development crises, and those NGOs paid to sanitize mining in the civil society sphere.

Africa needs alternatives to mining and fossil fuels even as basic or minimal mining would remain necessary. Even keynoters at the official Mining Indaba screamed out for ‘diversification’ thanks to the crash of commodity prices. Not every mineral in Africa must be extracted NOW. We need alternatives to development-as-ecocide. We need solidarity against both the Western imperialist and BRICS-sub imperialist New Scramble for Africa.

In short, we need a conference on ‘Alternatives to Mining’, and even more coordinated resistance and solidarity.

After all, Africa gave rise to one of the most innovative solutions to both the capitalist and climate crisis: “Leave the Oil in the Soil, the Coal in the Hole, and the Fracking Shale Gas under the Grass!” This philosophy was catalyzed by the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa and eight other activists by the Nigerian government at the behest of Shell Oil 20 years ago, because they organized hundreds of thousands of people to peacefully protest the oil-extractive destruction of the Niger Delta.

The concept of avoiding a Resource Curse by leaving ‘wealth’ underground, has animated activists globally. Why could it not be discussed, let alone owned, in Cape Town in 2016? The NGOs’ failure of nerve and the neglect of mining communities’ interests so that mining-as-development rhetoric can continue, are reasons why the AMI steers dangerously close to becoming a ridiculous distraction, not a space for counter-power.

*Farai Maguwu, a doctoral candidate in Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, is also the Founding Director of Centre for Natural Resource Governance in Zimbabwe.
**Christelle Terreblanche is a doctoral candidate in Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Community voices muted at Alternative Mining Indaba

By giving corporations a bigger stake, the people affected by mining are being marginalised

By Christopher Rutledge


18 February 2016

CAPE TOWN - At the 2014 Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI), a community leader stood up and made an impassioned plea for the AMI to be opened up to more community participation and held closer to where communities are experiencing the effects of mining.

By the time the 2015 AMI came around, communities had become so frustrated at their exclusion that they initiated an impromptu protest at the indaba. The organisers were livid and could not understand why the AMI should be the target of community protest.

For the 2016 AMI, community funding support to attend had been withdrawn. Less than 10% of the delegates were community members affected by mining.

The AMI states that its first aim is “to provide a platform for communities affected and impacted by the extractive industries to reclaim their rights through the formulation of alternatives”. Foregrounding communities, and providing the space to “create meaningful decision making processes for communities” are the key objective of the AMI.

Yet looking through the 2016 programme, one is struck that out of 69 speaking slots or allocations to influence discussions, only ten slots were allocated to communities. In commission after commission, when counting the participants and doing a roll call of who was present, community participants were noticeably absent and rarely pipped the 10% level.

On the Sunday evening before the AMI was due to start, I received a call at 11pm from community members who were bitterly disappointed that the small group of them that had managed to squeeze out an invitation and support to attend the AMI, were housed in dire old army barracks with stinking toilets and poor facilities, while the organisers were all enjoying four-star luxury.

While I understand the difficulties of finding accommodation in Cape Town during this period, I do think it speaks to the lack of preference that community members enjoy.

Where community members were present in commissions, they were often faced with hostile interventions by business delegates, who often sought to limit the intensity of the debate or the radical contributions of the participants. Business delegates were disguised as free thinking hippies in one case, or often as NGOs, very seldom announcing their funders or members.

Having been invited by the organisers to facilitate a session on business and human rights, I was confronted by a situation where the organisers had asked me to co-facilitate with an NGO which upon further investigation turned out to be a proxy for Shell, Vale Mining, Total and other corporate entities. When I raised my concerns with the organisers, I was asked to accommodate their inclusion.

During my exchange with the coordinating committee of the AMI, it became clear that the incorporation of business into the life of the AMI and indeed a policy of dialogue and collaboration which excludes communities had already taken root within the funders of the indaba and its organising committee.

Collaboration and dialogue with business and capital is of course not a new phenomenon and has been the cornerstone of efforts by people such as Ban Ki Moon of the UN, who has promoted big business as a “truly transformative force” whose goodwill and resources provide a “unique opportunity” to drive sustainable development.

Others, such as Simon Zadek, a recent contributor to Ban Ki-Moon’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, whose 2008 article Global Collaborative Governance, There is No Alternative argued: “It is through collaboration, often involving the oddest bedfellows, that we vest this generation’s hope for effectively addressing the challenges of poverty, inequality, and environmental insecurity.”

The logic here is rather straight forward and through various processes such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the message rings consistently as Maria Hengeveld, a Fulbright fellow in human rights at Columbia University explains the message to convey; that corporations are our partners, not our enemies. We reach out to them asking for responsibility, and we don’t demand accountability. We are urged to charm them and not to scold them. And we should of course do all of this, while ignoring the long violent history of dispossession and exclusion presided over by the very corporates we are now to embrace as our partners. We are asked to ignore the long history corporations have of assimilating the liberal language of NGOs, while fastidiously bulldozing communities off their land.

In an address at the AMI by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), a body representing major mining companies with which the AMI has been having private meetings, the chairperson noted how progressive their members were and how Mark Cutifani, the CEO of Anglo, was one of their most forward thinking members.

I was struck by the irony of it all. Mark Cutifani`s Anglo is currently presiding over almost a century of dispossession and the abuse of 65,000 community members human rights in Mokopane. This systemic and structural violence against the community of Mapela in Mokopane is vividly captured in a current report which I authored for ActionAid South Africa entitled Precious Metal II, A systemic Inequality.

The promotion by the AMI for certain NGO groups to participate in the corporate Mining Indaba, itself raises serious questions about the efficacy of providing legitimacy to the corporate Mining Indaba. Having a few dissenting voices in a limited number of discussions does more for the corporates than it does for the people the NGOs profess to do it for.

Maria Hengeveld captures it well when she argues: ‘Corporations have long recognized that investing in NGOs and attaching their brands to trusted activist organizations — preferably those who represent “innocent victims” such as children and women and, ideally, those who focus on the cultural and traditional practices that oppress them — is a lucrative way to protect their reputations and pacify opposition to corporate globalization. Increasingly, they rely on NGOs not just to legitimize their direct practices but also to normalize neoliberal, market-led development.”

The issue then is not so much that we must engage business and government on the impact mining has on communities, but how do we do this in a way that not only builds the agency of communities to articulate their issues to the duty bearers in government and business, but also that our engagement does not provide legitimacy to corporate and state abuses, and does not further entrench the inequality that is inherent in the current system.

It is in challenging the current inequities of the system which silences communities living in poverty that social justice NGOs have stepped into the breach to facilitate community engagement.

The danger with the current model adopted by the AMI, which excludes communities and preferences NGO elites, is that it sets up NGOs as a Sixth Estate of elites that speaks on behalf of communities and raise funds in the name of communities, while limiting and excluding communities in the very same way that state and corporate duty bearers consistently do.

Without placing communities in a position where they are empowered to drive their own change agenda, the intervention and agenda setting by NGOs are more likely to affirm existing inequalities rather than provide alternatives or a challenge to the status quo.

Finally, this brings me to the way the AMI is coordinated and run. The AMI does not have an elected governance structure and no community voices in the coordinating structure which develops its strategy and agenda. This by itself is not unusual, but it does raise concerns when the AMI appropriates the right to engage in negotiations with governments and business on behalf of communities. As I already pointed out, communities have an extremely limited role in its deliberations and absolutely no role in setting agendas.

It is ironic then that the AMI in its 2016 declaration declares that it seeks to end the exclusion and injustice against communities and seeks to give a voice to communities, when the AMI appears to be doing the very same thing it accuses government and corporates of doing.

The need to open this conversation to include communities goes to the heart of the role of NGOs in contemporary society. It is my hope that this opinion will facilitate such a discussion.

Opinions expressed are not necessarily GroundUp's.

Mining plans ignore affected people

by Robert Krause

Business Day

18 February 2016

A PERVASIVE theme in the discussions among civil society organisations and communities at the 7th Alternative Mining Indaba was increasing impatience at the use of progressive-sounding phrases by mining companies without real action attached to them. This frustration with the gap between paper rights and substance goes beyond the mining sector to the whole global economic order and is exemplified by movements such as #FeesMustFall.

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies is conducting research into the social and labour plan (SLP) system, which involves mining companies making undertakings for local economic development and education and training as a condition for obtaining the right to mine. This system, it turns out, is one of the areas in which the gap between rhetoric and substance is the most stark, as the experience articulated by mining communities remains one of dispossession, impoverishment and environmental degradation.

This is not only a question of the gap between legislative architecture and implementation. Rather, the gap is built into the legislation itself, namely between its transformative aims and the quality of the mechanisms the legislation puts in place.

Consider, for example, the objective of ensuring companies contribute to the development of the areas in which they operate. If development for the communities directly affected by mining was the objective, one would assume communities would be accorded a central role in the process, from the formulation of the social and labour plans to their implementation and the monitoring of compliance and revision.

On the contrary, there is no clear provision in binding legislation or regulations that requires any community participation in SLPs. Only the (soft law) guidelines state that communities must be consulted in the design of the SLP, and even here nothing is stated about the role of communities for the rest of the plan’s life cycle. It is therefore not surprising that of the 50 SLPs we examined only two referred to consultation with community members beyond local government and traditional authorities, and none provided a life-cycle plan for participation.

One would also expect the legislative framework would make it compulsory for companies to provide both the SLP documents and a summary of their content for communities. However, the only requirement is to make the SLP known to workers, with other members of affected communities excluded. This legislative silence has led to the absurd situation in which community members have to resort to lawyers’ letters and even protest to access the documents.

Part of our research involved testing the accessibility of SLPs by lodging access to information requests under the Promotion of Access to Information Act with both the individual companies and with the Department of Mineral Resources.

Nearly 50% of the responses from the private sector were negative. The department did, by contrast, decide to grant access to all the SLPs. However, this followed a protracted process of engagement including several phone calls. Once access is granted by the department, the requester still needs to arrange with the regional branches to access the records. In one instance a branch initially resisted granting access despite a departmental directive to provide the documents. This is a time-intensive process for community members who have their own work to do.

Addressing the gaps between promises and reality requires community mobilisation to create the necessary pressure on companies and the government. An important role can be played by improvements to the legislation that lessen the discretion accorded to companies and provide entry points for communities to have a meaningful voice in how the programmes tasked with improving their life circumstances are designed, implemented and monitored.

• Krause is a researcher in the environmental justice programme at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies

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