The event, which was organised by the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (Zela) and Third World Network-Africa in collaboration with ActionAid International (Zimbabwe), ran from June 21 to 24.
Held under the theme: “The African Mining Reform Agenda: Mobilising for Developmental Impacts”, the meeting saw Aimes member countries, among them Kenya, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Ghana, DRC, Zambia, and Zimbabwe taking part.
It was a chance for the “Pan-African network of organisations, groups, communities and individuals engaged in extractive sector advocacy, in particular mining” to come together and share experiences. It was also meant to analyse the issues of concern in different countries with a view to map out strategies and re-positioning advocacy strategies for more effectiveness.
The Aimes meeting, among its many objectives, aimed at coming up with strategies to vigorously advocate for mining companies to not only accept the need to have a CSR policy, but to make it mandatory.
The general feeling among the different country representatives was that Africa finds itself in this predicament because it was not united with each country thinking in terms of “my own territory”.
Those with the capital, mostly Western investors, backed by their governments, are reported to be taking full advantage of this by imposing conditions and regulations that are largely in favour of their own interests.
“We live in poverty. We do not have what it takes to properly exploit the resources and transform them into developmental structures,” said Abu A Brima, the executive director for Network Movement for Justice and Development (Sierra Leone).
“We need to develop a minimal standard taking into account all the problems we are facing and enforce standards without compromise.
“In spite of our poverty, we need standards that ensure the environment is protected and preserved and that people participate at a local level and are awarded the chance to make decisions on where, how and what to mine.”
One thing for sure, the Aimes meeting provided a chance for African countries to cover common ground and collectively tackle the myriad of problems bedeviling the countries as a result of mining activities.
“There is now a clearer understanding of the African mining agenda and how it provides an opportunity for the positive reform of Africa’s mineral regime,” Zela programmes officer Gilbert Makore said.
“The meetings provide a vehicle through which to redress the negative impact of mining and to ensure enhanced local and national economic benefit from mining.”
COUNTRY REPORTS BLAST MINERS OVER COMPENSATION
The report from Ghana on how the mining companies in that country are generally reluctant to compensate the communities displaced to make way for mining operations immediately reminded me of the situation in Chiadzwa.
Hundreds of families relocated to pave way for diamond mining activities were resettled in areas without basic amenities.
And like in Zimbabwe, interest groups in Ghana are concerned about their government’s manipulation of the natural resources. They are concerned about the lack of clearly structured platforms for community participation in decision making on issues that have an impact on their lives, like how the natural resources are utilised.
In Congo, there are reports of endless conflicts between the communities and the government over the latter’s alleged bias towards the mining companies at the expense of the ordinary citizens.
It is the ordinary villagers that have had to suffer as a result of “unfriendly” mining operations that are detrimental to people’s general well-being.
This appears to be the same case in Zimbabwe where the majority of the mining companies act as if they were above the law as they continue to get away with the most dreadful environmental abuses.
While this is happening, the government remains seemingly oblivious to the plight of the ordinary people whose health and general well-being is jeopardised.
Activists from Uganda, like those in South Africa, focused mostly on their continuous efforts towards getting the mining companies to not only accept but implement Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
CSR calls for the companies to carry out their operations in a manner that does not endanger but instead enhances people’s lives through environmentally-friendly programmes and giving back to the communities they operate from.