MAC: Mines and Communities

Statement of the International Women and Mining Network

Published by MAC on 2004-10-15

Statement of the International Women and Mining Network

Third International Women and Mining Conference

1st to 9th October 2004, Visakhapatnam, India

We are the International Women and Mining Network having members who are women affected and displaced by mining and women who work in the mines or live in the mining regions and human rights organizations concerned with the gender justice issues in mining. We have created an international platform for ourselves as our voices from the mine pits and from the remote hills, forests and deserts we hail from, need to be heard by the world all over to understand that extraction and processing of minerals has serious negative impacts on women and communities, which are invisible.

We strongly believe that this platform we have created for ourselves will help us reach out to each other from different backgrounds as women workers, as communities and as indigenous women to challenge the exploitative global economics, policies and mining practices. We want to collectively define our perspective of sustainable development and utilization of the world's resources and to rebuild our lives and identities, which are being destroyed by the mining industry.

Therefore, we have met at this Third International Women and Mining Conference from 1st to 9th October 2004 at Visakhapatnam, India, to renew our collective strengths and to emphasise our demand for gender justice and gender sensitive policies with respect to mining in all our countries. In togetherness we reassert our commitment to the Pact for Life to bring peace and justice for all our sisters and children suffering due to mining.

The Third International Women and Mining Conference has clearly brought out and re emphasized the impacts of mining on women and children that we had identified in our earlier two conferences, with the only difference that the problems have grown in their intensity and scope.

The global and national policy frameworks imposing the processes of trade liberalization, privatization and deregulation pushed by institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and regional development banks, implemented by our weak and complicit governments at national and local levels in the interests of transnational corporations and the private mining industry have completely undermined the larger common needs and development of the society and the health of the planet.

From the experiences we have shared at this third conference, we state that mining has serious negative impacts on women's lives, livelihoods, social and cultural status, physical and sexual rights, ecological spaces, access to and control over natural resources, legal and customary rights and traditional knowledge systems. Mining has also generated serious development myths, which we challenge from the gender perspective.

We reassert our respect for the earth, our natural resources, our uniqueness, diversity and commonality. We want to lead healthy, peaceful and productive lives that will promote human well being and ecological richness. We want the participation of women in positive economic activities and sustainable livelihoods.

Therefore, our collective statement at this conference is:

Mining is an unsustainable industry and does not lead to economic and social well being of people. It forces a situation of unfair trade, economics, health and social relationships. Our experiences of mining struggles whether for the rights of women in communities or women in mine labour show how the State and the Mining Industry frustrate our social movements through diversionary (for example, corporate social responsibility), military or divisive tactics destroying the peace and well being of our people. Mining has also led to the increase in communal conflict, violence, and corporate crimes.

Mining is one of the most unfriendly, masculine and gender insensitive industries toward women and excludes them from the formal and organized sector. Privatisation and liberalization have completely marginalized women in the mining industry by largescale retrenchment and denial of employment facilities to women. These processes are aggressively being implemented in almost all our countries.

Increasingly, mining is providing opportunities for women only as casual, contract and daily wage labourers and in the small scale, artisanal and informal sector where legislative protections do not exist. Moreover, women engaged in small scale and artisanal mining are being marginalized by the entry of transnational mining companies which are over riding community mining activities.

We state that mining is essentially a consumer and market oriented economy geared towards corporate profits and not for the larger development needs of societies as proved in majority of our countries. Many mining affected countries today have the worst indices of human development. Women in mining pay the highest price of human degradation for the extraction and enjoyment of minerals and metals by the world. The valuation of the world's minerals does not take into account these invisible human costs and subsidies especially that women and children pay.

Most women in mining communities are forced into illegal mining activities due to displacement, loss of access to natural resources and for lack of proper livelihood options when land based economies shift to mining economies.

Mining has not only marginalized women in the industry but also destroyed all other livelihood opportunities on which women have been dependent with respect to traditional land, forests and water based occupations. Thereby, it has led to the reduction in the social and economic status of women, especially indigenous women as a result of forced transition from land based traditional systems to mining based economies.

The societal myth, induced by the mining industry that the world cannot live without the current scale of mineral extraction and production is highly questionable from our perspective of sustainable development

The mining industry is perpetrating prejudices that women cannot handle technology and that they have to be largely confined to the unskilled labour.

We are angry that the global mining industry is influencing many of our governments in the developing and under developed countries to amend our constitutions and social welfare policies and laws where ever they are to the detriment of private and transnational corporations expropriating our lands and resources. Many of these pressures are coming from international financial institutions and banks, especially the World Bank in the guise of economic reforms. All these 'reforms' have direct negative impacts on women mine workers, poor and rural and indigenous women.

Where communities and workers are rising against these lobbies, the international financial institutions and transnational corporations are denying their responsibility or withdrawing from projects without accountability and passing on these crimes to our national governments. This is unacceptable.

We dispute the industry's voluntary codes of conduct being promoted in lieu of legislative and judicial safeguards, especially the processes of engagement and dialogue through mechanisms like corporate social responsibility currently being practiced as they undermine the impacts of mining on women and do not address the basic issues with respect to their rights over lands, livelihoods, employment, safe and dignified life and working conditions.

Mining has had serious impacts on women workers' health and has caused irrevocable illnesses like silicosis, tuberculosis, asbestosis, chronic, debilitating, terminal and reproductive health problems which are deliberately suppressed by the industry, ignored and neglected by our governments.

Women mine workers are exposed to high levels of pollution, contamination and toxic substances at the work place and are especially employed in the more hazardous and polluting sections of the mining activities like processing plants and milling units.

Communities are forced to consume contaminated water with high levels of toxicity and thereby cause serious reproductive and life threatening health problems to women.

Participation of women in decision making roles is negligible whether they are women mine workers or women displaced or affected by mining.

Finally, we expect that governments, industries, international bodies and consumers all accept responsibility to this earth and to the women of this earth who are affected by mining.

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