Monthly Archives: October 2015

Africa: With Around 40% of Resource Extraction and Use Linked to World Trade, New Policies Required to Address Environmental Impacts

Wed, Oct 14, 2015

IRP Report Finds Trade Shifting Burden of Environmental Impacts to Developing Economies

Davos, Switzerland, 14 October 2015

As countries become increasingly dependent on world trade, with 40 per cent of resources extracted and used worldwide linked directly or indirectly to trade, new policies are needed to address adverse environmental impacts, according to a new report.

International Trade in Resources: A biophysical assessment, produced by the United Nations Environment Programme-hosted International Resource Panel (IRP), reveals that the value of international trade has increased over six-fold and its volume more than doubled between 1980 and 2010.

This increase in trade has been accompanied by a shift in resource-intense processes, and associated environmental burdens, to developing nations.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “The benefits of international trade can include better access to resources and even more efficient production techniques from economies of scale. Yet the associated increase in global consumption and production results in overall environmental impact, from pollution to resource depletion.

“That these impacts are being transferred to poorer nations is further cause for concern. In taking advantage of the benefits of international trade, we will need policies that protect the environment from trade’s detrimental effects.”

The report examines the upstream resource requirements of trade, which refers to the materials, energy, land and water used in the country of origin for producing traded goods, but left behind as wastes and emissions.

While trade has risen for most materials, dependency on world markets is highest for fossil fuels and metals. Around half of the volume of extracted fossil fuels and metals is reallocated through trade.

Estimating upstream requirements of traded commodities is challenging, with estimates ranging from 40 to up to 400 per cent of traded materials. With this in mind, the report draws the following conclusions:

– The amount of global resource extraction and use-65 billion tonnes in 2010-has increased at a slower rate than trade, which signifies the rising overall dependency of countries on trade.

– Of the resources extracted and used worldwide, 15 per cent are directly traded. This proportion rises to around 40 per cent when including resources indirectly associated with trade-that is, used in the production process, but not physically included in the traded good.

– High-income countries have up to twice as large positive trade balances when measured in raw materials rather than direct trade, while for low-income countries the opposite is true. This signifies a shift in resource-intensive processes from high-income countries to developing and emerging economies, with a corresponding shift in associated environmental burdens.

– The distribution of trade dependency has changed. Although high-income countries continue to be main recipients of resources via trade, emerging economies such as China have switched to becoming major importers. The world trading system has come to rely on ever fewer net exporters, which makes it increasingly vulnerable to disruptions in supplies.

– Trade could be resource efficient in that it allows commodities to be obtained from countries/locations where their production requires fewer resources and generates fewer environmental impacts than in others. However, numerous processes-including higher trade levels, declining ore grades and decreasing energy returns upon energy investment (EROEI), higher food demand and diminishing land productivity-further increase the upstream resource requirements of trade. These factors are likely to negate any benefits of a potentially more resource efficient allocation of extraction and production activities via world trade.

Appropriate trade and environmental policies and agreements are therefore required in order to limit over-exploitation of resources, waste and environmental destruction linked to expanded levels of trade.

Dr. Ashok Khosla and Dr. Janez Potocnik, co-chairs of the IRP, said in a statement, ‘”This extraordinarily readable report manages to present the essential insights decision-makers need to design and implement policies that will ensure international trade is a positive instrument for building more prosperous economies, a fairer world and a healthier global environment.”

For more information, please contact:

Michael Logan, News and Media Officer, UNEP
+254 725 939620,
Shaoyi Li, Head, Secretariat of International Resource Panel (IRP)

About the International Resource Panel

The International Resource Panel was established in 2007 to provide independent, coherent and authoritative scientific assessment on the sustainable use of natural resources and the environmental impacts of resource use over the full life cycle. By providing up-to-date information and best science available, the International Resource Panel contributes to a better understanding of how to decouple human development and economic growth from environmental degradation. The information contained in the International Resource Panel’s reports is intended to be policy relevant and support policy framing, policy and programme planning, and enable evaluation and monitoring of policy effectiveness.

To download a summary of the report, please


Community Victory: Nicaragua Halts Canadian Gold-Mining Project

Published 13 October 2015

After months of campaigning, the Nicaraguan government has revoked B2Gold’s permit to mine Rancho Grande.

The Nicaraguan government has declared that the Canadian company B2Gold’s bid to open a gold mine is “unviable” due to its environmental impacts: the result of a long campaign of community resistance to the project.

“The project is not feasible due to the damage that it would cause would cause in nature, the environment, the sources of water and the way of life of people,” government spokesperson Rosario Murillo told reporters on Monday, rejecting the plans to exploit resources of Rancho Grande, in the Matagalpa region.

Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, approved the repeal of B2Gold’s permit for the El Pavon project, based on an analysis by the environment and natural resources ministry.

RELATED: Nicaragua: Making Cooperatives Central to Democratization

The news comes as a victory to communities in northern Nicaragua, which have been fighting to protect their land from the Vancouver-based B2Gold’s program.

“I believe that on this occasion, the government has respected the will of the population and has listened to the popular clamor,” said Matagalpa bishop Rolando Alvarez, a key figure in the battle against mining in the area.

“We’re beset by foreign mining companies interested in gold exploitation, which now gives rise to the threat of losing everything,” he said at the march.

The bishop marched alongside thousands of residents Oct. 2, in protest against the planned exploitation. According the present government, the license for the Canadian company was granted before 2007, and authorized during the period of neoliberal governments.


South Africa: Will Gold Miners Get Justice?

9th October 2015


By Marcus Low

In King Leopold’s Ghost, the historian Adam Hochschild uncovers the horrors committed in the Belgian Congo in the years before and after 1900. It is a history of slavery, murder and mutilation – anyone who’s seen the pictures of piles of cut-off hands cannot but be horrified by it.

Rather than just focussing on ‘the horror’, Hochschild zooms in on the courageous individuals who stood up against this cruelty. These are people like George Washington Williams, a black American journalist who travelled to the Congo in the late 1880s, and E. D. Morel, who dedicated much of his life to exposing the atrocities to the British public and to changing public opinion.

King Leopold’s Ghost recognises and bears witness to the atrocities in the Congo. Atrocities like these are too easily forgotten, too easily reduced to boring facts and figures. Bearing witness to such cruelties done to others affirms our humanity. We should remember the victims of King Leopold just as we remember the victims of the Holocaust or apartheid.

Recently doing some work on the landmark silicosis class action lawsuit here in South Africa, I was struck by the realisation that the history of our gold mines has similarities with the history of the rubber trade in the Congo. Of course, we did not have anything close to the same number of murders. Nor was their cutting-off of hands. But our gold mines, over decades, systematically exposed their mostly poor and black workers to dangerous levels of silica dust knowing it would kill them. Estimates vary, but probably as many as 20% of workers in South African gold mines over the last five or so decades developed silicosis. That adds up to hundreds of thousands of men – most of whom have already died.

The historian Jock McCulloch has shown that the history of silicosis in South Africa is deeply interwoven with our history of racial discrimination. Long before 1948, black miners were treated according to different rules than their white counterparts. While it is clearly a story of race, it is also one of commercially driven colonialist exploitation. In short, gold mines made loads of money for both mining companies and the state. If this meant ruining the lungs of hundreds of thousands of mostly poor black men, that was a price they were willing to pay. The specific conditions around silicosis and the gold mines made it easy for them to get away with it – the workers involved had little or no access to justice, existing compensation systems were severely dysfunctional, and, unlike severed hands, silicosis develops slowly and the scarring is hidden inside the body.

The horrible subtext to all of this, the core of what we need to confront, is that either because they are black or because they are poor, or both, gold mining companies, with the collusion of the state, treated their workers as second-class people who are disposable.

As was the case in the Congo, this underbelly of our history has largely remained hidden. At the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings in 1996 we did face many of the horrors of apartheid, but inevitably we only heard a fraction of the story. Histories like those of the gold mines have largely remained unaccounted for in our attempts to come to terms with our past. This is an open wound that arguably contributes to the continued disaffection of black working class people in the current dispensation.

For two weeks starting on Monday 12 October, the deliberations at the South Gauteng High Court promise to shine the light of our Constitution on this historic injustice. In the case of Nkala and others v Harmony and others, three sets of lawyers representing 56 former miners will seek to hold the entire gold mining industry in South Africa accountable for the failure to protect the health of workers. The applicants will be asking the court to certify two classes of people: miners who have both worked two years on the mines in the last five decades and developed either silicosis or contracted tuberculosis. It will likely be the largest class action lawsuit in South African history and is likely to reverberate around the world. If the former mine workers are successful, the companies will have to fork out billions of rand in compensation.

The case is firstly about just compensation for former mine workers and their families. The Constitutional Court has already declared the existing compensation system to be inadequate. But it is also about creating accountability to ensure that gold mines clean up their act and ensure that current and future mine workers are not exposed to unsafe levels of silica dust. Mining companies must know that if they infringe the rights of their workers they will have to pay a high price.

But on top of all that, the case is also about doing what Hochschild did with King Leopold’s Ghost and to some extent what we aimed to do with the TRC. It is about facing up to a history many wealthy and powerful people would rather shy away from. It is about putting on public record the harm done to the miners for whom there has been no justice, who were recruited from places like the rural Eastern Cape and then some years later sent back there with ruined lungs and no prospects of further employment.

Our Constitution guarantees everyone the right to dignity and to bodily integrity. It does so for everyone – whether you are a poor person without matric or a wealthy person with political connections. It is clear that the rights of former miners with silicosis have been infringed, and that as yet constitutional guarantees have not meant much to them. Whether the court upholds their rights and provides some form of justice remains to be seen. Either way, it will tell us a lot about the country we live in and our values as a society.

Low is with the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). The TAC together with Sonke Gender Justice has been admitted as friend of the court in the silicosis case. Views expressed are not necessarily GroundUp’s.


West Africa: Keynote Address By H.E The President Of The Republic Of Ghana At The ECOMOF

9th October 2015


Valorising West Africa’s Mineral & Petroleum Resources through Regional Cooperation.

The Representative of H.E. the President of the Republic of Ghana

H.E. the President of the ECOWAS Commission,
Kadre Desire Ouedraogo

H.E. the Commissioner for Trade and Industry, AU Commission,
Mrs. Fatima Haram Acyl

Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Hon. Colleague Ministers

Friends of the Mining Fraternity

Officials of Mining Departments and Agencies

Nananom, Nii Mei, Na Mei

Ladies and Gentlemen,


I would like to start my address with an acknowledgement of the role played by ECOWAS Ministers responsible for Mineral Resources Development, who as far back as October 2010 – 5 years ago – requested the ECOWAS Commission to organize a regional mining and petroleum forum, as a key part of activities to promote and develop the mining and oil potentials of Member States. Your foresight is what has resulted in this Forum we are launching today.

To the ECOWAS Commission, which was actively involved in laying the foundation for the Forum to take place, my commendations and you, the other stakeholders, especially those of you from the private sector who accepted the challenge to sponsor this event, I am grateful for your active support.

This is the first Forum (of its type) and it’s being hosted by Ghana – the Gateway to West Africa. The significance of this, is that this ECOMOF initiative has come to stay. After this pioneering event, I trust that those who did not get involved would have learnt the lesson that it is a laudable forum aimed at developing efficient partnerships among all stakeholders to maximize the potential benefits of our extractive resources through regional cooperation, and would therefore partner ECOWAS and our respective host governments to sustain the initiative.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the African continent is endowed with significant mineral resources. Indeed African economies are leading producers of a number of key mineral commodities, including gold, platinum, bauxite, iron ore, copper and many others. Resources such as these should therefore be the bedrock for propelling mineral producing countries into accelerated broad-based development, spanning the macro to the micro levels.

The West African sub-region is no less endowed with mining, oil and gas extractives as well as other natural resources.

The global economy has slowed down somewhat with a resultant dampening effect on commodity demand and prices and although the outlook for the cycle is still bearish, to be able to accommodate population growth projections, the long term trend for demand and commodity prices can only be bullish. For instance, according to UN estimates the global population will exceed 9 billion by 2050; the ultimate resurgence in infrastructure development, especially in the areas of transport, communication, energy, manufacturing, health, agriculture and housing to support the millions of new consumers in emerging economies is expected to revive growth in demand for metals and other strategic minerals, along with other resources, from the world economy.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, while most of the countries of the sub-region should therefore be able to pursue their sustainable development by building on their comparative advantage in extractive resources, this has largely not materialised.

It is in this context that we, as African Heads of States, approved the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) in 2009, which aims at ensuring transparent, equitable and optimal exploitation of mineral resources to underpin broad based sustainable growth and socio-economic development through the necessary linkages. The Vision seeks to shift mineral policies on the continent beyond the narrow focus on just extracting minerals and sharing the resulting revenues, to that which would lead to a structural transformation of Africa’s economies through an industrialisation strategy anchored on minerals and other natural resources.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, to achieve the broad based growth and development anticipated by the AMV, not only have countries been assigned their responsibilities, but the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) of the sub-regions also have their roles, whilst the continental leadership has its responsibilities as well. Within this framework, cooperative and collaborative partnerships are critical if we are to successfully optimise all possible synergies.

Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen, I therefore commend the organisers of the Forum for their choice of the theme for this forum which is: “Valorising West Africa’s Mineral & Petroleum Resources through Regional Cooperation”; I trust the programming and exhibition set-up and other activities planned will promote interaction and lesson-learning, over the three days of the Forum, leading to enhanced partnerships across ECOWAS among all stakeholders.

I believe that the interplay of the technical topics and the country presentations from the sub-region have been balanced to achieve this; and therefore urge all participants to avail themselves of the complete experience offered.

At this juncture, I would also like to highlight a few areas which in my view should be considered during the Forum:

The Mining Sector

I know that each of the other countries in the sub-region with mineral resources has started or is pursuing one imitative or the other to enhance the holistic contribution of the mining sector to its economy, as anticipated by the AMV. In this respect, Ghana is working very closely with the African Mineral Development Centre (AMDC) to indigenize the AMV, through a Country Mining Vision (CMV).

Also, in this respect West Africa, through its Regional Economic Communities (RECs) – ECOWAS -, has already made efforts that have crystallised into policy and guidelines in the minerals and mining sector, namely:

• ECOWAS Directive on the Harmonisation of Guiding Principles and Policies in the Mining Sector, which was adopted by the Council of Ministers in 2009;

• ECOWAS Mineral Development Policy, gazetted in 2012 by ECOWAS.

The Oil and Gas Sector

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the oil and gas sector ought not to lag behind. It is my expectation that the plethora of policies and laws governing the oil and gas sector worldwide would afford countries in the sub-region, which are favourably endowed, the opportunity to learn from history in order to leapfrog in the area of sustainable management of our petroleum resources. The various projects being undertaken in the oil and gas sector should not only boost the sector’s production, but also enhance its contribution to the sustainable growth and development of our respective countries and the sub-region as a whole.

Good Governance

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, countries dependent on minerals and hydrocarbons in the ECOWAS sub-region cannot leverage their mineral and petroleum potential to maximize their contribution to sustainable development without adopting the key elements of good governance, including transparency, stakeholder involvement and accountability among others.

Linkages and Local Content

The extractive sector has the potential to markedly improve its sustainable contribution if properly managed within a framework by which it is more fully integrated with the rest of the economy. It is therefore not surprising that a Local Content agenda has been and continues to be prosecuted vigorously by almost all natural resource-endowed countries, though with varying country-specific considerations and types of interventions, to optimize local ownership and employment as well as broaden and improve local participation in the benefits that accrue from the development of our extractive resources.

Despite the differences in emphasis, the common objectives of the strategy in both extractive sectors, have been as follows:

• to deepen backward linkages with other sectors of the economy (increasing the amount of local goods and services that extractive companies purchase and through transfer of technology);

• to create or enhance benefits in the form of job opportunities and greater citizen participation in the sector (through local ownership and control); and possibly,

• to expand forward links, through processing of industry output to some extent, before exporting.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I understand that these issues will be considered at the Forum. In the context of the theme of the Forum, one of the key issues that I also expect to be discussed is, “how sovereign nations in West Africa can reconcile their local content policies in the mining and petroleum sectors and thereby pursue meaningful regional cooperation.”

Aligning Extractive Sector Visions with Global Sustainable Development Goals

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, December 2015 marks the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are being finalised. The relevant SDGs are intended to ensure the sustainable exploitation and application of our natural resources.

Ladies and gentlemen, I trust these would be kept in view throughout the deliberations of the Forum.

Efforts at Managing the Negative Environmental Impacts of Extractives

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the Government of Ghana is fully aware that poor mining and processing practices can cause excessive environmental degradation and pollution. The framework of legislation and regulatory structures should therefore aim at curtailing any such potential negative impacts, by protecting sensitive areas while demanding reclamation and rehabilitation of other impacted areas where mining activities are permitted.

Some countries have similar, more stringent or in some cases almost no standards.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, at the governmental level, I trust that the subject of the evolving global socio-environmental standards will engage the attention of participants, in our bid to answer the question of how to reconcile these standards across the sub-region to protect posterity and thereby promote sustainable development even as we actively develop our extractives.

On their part, extractive sector companies will agree with me that compliance with policies, laws, regulations and guidelines governing their operations are not negotiable. Thus, companies will be expected to fully comply with these regulations to assist Government in creating a more sustainable operating environment.


Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, in concluding, it is worth noting that mineral and petroleum resources have the capacity to contribute to sustainable development when properly managed. Therefore, as they establish the necessary legal and regulatory environment to attract investment (both local and foreign) for creating and equitably sharing the resulting benefits, it is important that government’s have a long term objective, including, among others, the development of skills and broad human resource capacity, technology transfer and growth of other industries necessary to catalyse broad-based growth and development on a sustainable basis, which goes beyond the mining activities as the mining activities will invariably end with the depletion of the extractive resource.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I wish you fruitful deliberations and interaction over the next three days.

Finally, whether you are visiting Ghana for the first time or not, I trust that you will take time off your busy schedule to take advantage of the proverbial Ghanaian hospitality and cuisine, before you depart our shores.

Thank you very much.


Africa: Looking Beyond the Vision – An Africa Mining Vision (AMV) Compact with Private Sector Leaders in Africa

8th October 2015


Speaking points for H.E. Mrs. Fatima Haram Acyl,
Commissioner for Trade & Industry, African Union

Africa is among the fastest growing regions in the world. New discoveries of oil, gas and minerals in several African countries have raised expectations of populations for rapid economic growth and poverty reduction on the continent.

However, economic growth has not trickled down to the people, especially to the youth and women, in terms of social and human development as 69% of people in extreme poverty are in resource driven countries. Indeed, many resource-rich African countries have failed to capitalize on these favorable economic conditions and have not made use of associated side-stream and down-stream activities and opportunities, including non-fiscal benefits such as higher employment and broad-based skills development.

This problem has preoccupied policy makers and other stakeholders for many years. The development impacts of mining have traditionally been reported with reference to production, investment, employment, taxation and royalties, and direct effects on the economy. In more recent years, greater emphasis has also been placed on local development impacts, such as the procurement of local goods and services and the provision of skills and infrastructure.

Mining companies are increasingly being measured against good economic, environmental and corporate social performance, the triple bottom line approach. Indeed, the quest for ‘sustainability’ has led demands for fairness from African countries’ stakeholders. Recognizing that the extractives sector is characterized by complex relationships and competing demands, rights, and claims from governments, local communities, civil society on one hand and private companies on the other, it has become essential to build a consensus on what constitutes ‘shared value’ and ‘shared benefits’ and how to secure a social license to operate in the 21st century.

African governments have become more assertive in developing long term visions for mineral resources; to increase local content; move up the value chain; and increase inter-sectoral linkages between minerals and non-mineral sectors. This emerging narrative of a ‘rising’ Africa is underscored by the adoption of several initiatives such as the African Union’s Agenda 2063; the Common African Position (CAP) on the post 2015 Development Agenda; and the Africa Mining Vision (AMV). The AMV emphasizes the transformative role that the mining sector plays in the delivery of development in Africa.

To ensure successful implementation of the AMV, an explicit agreement between AU member States and private sector leaders in the extractive industries is necessary. This agreement which we are proposing, is to be in the form of an AMV Compact between AU member States and private sector leaders in Africa, fashioned along the same lines of the UN Global Compact. The AMV Compact would draw a set of standards that would serve as a benchmark for companies and governments to assess performance, resulting in robust policies that cover a range of principles.

The AMV day in 2014 organized during Mining Indaba served as an opportunity to build on the outcomes of the 3rd Ministerial Conference of African Ministers of Mining held from 13-17 December 2013 on the theme “Leveraging the Africa Mining Vision for Africa’s Renaissance: Towards Broader Ownership.” Building on the ministerial meeting in Maputo, the AMV Day focused on how to broaden ownership beyond state actors with the private sector and other stakeholders. It provided a venue for senior officials from both governments and the private sector to brainstorm on the importance of collective partnerships, ownership, and the roles various stakeholders can play in helping realize the objectives of the Vision. One of key takeaways from the AMV Day 2014 was to organize a meeting of Chamber of Mines and other mining business groups across Africa to discuss the contents of the AMV compact with business leaders in Africa.

Consolidating the gains from the previous AMV Day, at Mining Indaba 2015, in addition to the AMV Day 2015, the AUC through the African Mineral Development Center organized a dinner dialogue with private sector leaders in Africa. A total of 60 participants including Ministers and senior government officials; senior members of Mining companies; African chambers of mines; women in mining associations; civil society organizations; academia; international financial institutions; implementing partners (AfDB, UNDP); and development partners discussed shared benefits in implementing the AMV. The Dialogue, which included meaningful and frank discussions, highlighted the need for collaborative partnerships, continuous dialogue; and new models of doing business going forward. The process of formulating an ‘AMV Compact with private sector leaders in Africa’ was launched.

This type of dialogue was particularly important in light of the downward trend in mineral commodity prices at the time, increased production costs and diminishing profit margins, against a background of increasing demand for an economically and socially responsive industry. This trend called for a sober discussion on how to continue the dialogue on sustainable development principles within the context of depressed pricing. In addition, from September 2015, a new global agenda of sustainable goals as articulated in the post-2015 agenda will also pay attention to the extractive industry. This new agenda will require defining the terms of a new global compact on how to proceed within our planetary boundaries.

For the dialogue with private sector leaders to be continuous and meaningful, it is crucial to establish an Africa wide network of Chambers of Mines and Mining Associations. The establishment of such a network would enable an efficient consultation and dialogue process on mineral related issues in Africa between AU constituencies and private sector leaders in Africa.

It is in this regard that we are today launching the AMV Compact and I wish you fruitful deliberations and that we will come up with a product that will shape the partnership with the private sector that will contribute to the realization of Africa’s vision as defined by the aspirations of the African people and that inform the Agenda 2063 and the Common African Position on post 2015 development Agenda.

I thank you


Chile: Another Canadian gold mine

Barrick Gold and the Indigenous communities of Huasco, Chile

Posted on September 30, 2015

This week’s guest writer is Adrienne Wiebe, staff person for MCC Alberta. A trained anthropologist, Adrienne summarizes the findings of a longer report she undertook for MiningWatch Canada and the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts (Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales or OLCA).

In March of this year, I visited the beautiful Huasco River valley in the Andes Mountains in northern Chile to learn about the impact of a gold mine on the local people and their valley. The mine is operated by Toronto-based Barrick Gold, the largest gold mining company in the world. Straddling the height of the Andes Mountains between Chile and Argentina, the Pascua-Lama site boasts one of the largest reserves of gold and silver ever discovered – an estimated 15.4 million ounces of gold and 675 million ounces of silver.

The mine has been plagued with challenges and controversy since construction began in the late 1990s. Of primary concern has been the negative environmental impact of the project, particularly given the location of mineral reserves underneath and near glaciers that are part of a watershed that serves this fragile but fertile valley. The small glacier-fed river in the valley enables small-scale irrigation and cultivation of food crops and vineyards. Threats to the supply and quality of the water have been the primary concern. Several times over the last 15 years, operations have been halted because of environmental violations. A denunciation by local community groups was accepted by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in 2009.

Indigenous peoples and social license

Given the generally negative local perception of the mine, Barrick has been focusing in the past ten years on gaining the support of the local Indigenous population. These are people who identify as Diaguita, the traditional Indigenous people in the area, and who represent about half of the current area population. However, until 2006, the Diaguita were not an official “ancestral people” recognized by the Chilean government.

Barrick was involved from the beginning in the process of what the company called “rescuing” Diaguita culture. The company funded cultural classes and documentation and application for Indigenous status for residents. It was also involved in the formation of Indigenous state-recognized community groups.

In May 2014, the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with 15 Diaguita communities that it helped to form. According to Barrick Gold officials, the agreements met the requirements of international guidelines of the rights of Indigenous peoples to consultation, participation, and to set their own development priorities as laid out by the international Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, (International Labour Organization ILO – No. 169). Barrick felt that this MOU set a new standard for mining companies around the world in their relationships with local Indigenous communities.

A problematic process

However, local community members presented a different story. Palinay, a Diaguita artisan, objects to the commodification and exploitation of her Indigenous identity:

“We dress up for ceremonies and photos when we sign agreements. We are learning the Quechua language, the language of the Inca Empire, not the local language, because [Barrick brought] someone from the Quechua area who came to teach ceramics and taught people some Quechua words. Those people signing the MOU are a caricature of our culture. Barrick is using Indigenous status to legitimize its presence. We need to make an effort to guard our authentic culture, preserve it, and transmit it to our children.”

Jhon Meléndez, a Diaguita and a spokesperson for the Coalition for Water of Huasco Alto (Asamblea del Agua del Huasco Alto), is a member of a small Diaguita community which was one of the groups that did not sign the MOU with Barrick:

“Although we have lost a lot of our culture, we maintain our traditions. We are not ‘rescuing’ our Indigenous identity, like Barrick says; rather we are ‘preserving’ our identity.”

For many of the local people, Barrick Gold was in a conflict of interest when it utilized its immense resources to finance the registration of Indigenous identity, form government-recognized Indigenous communities, and then sign agreements with these groups.

The result: social conflict

According to the community members I spoke with, the development and approval of the MOU was a confusing process, which lacked transparency, and created social conflict and division. Barrick Gold provided handouts of money to community groups that resulted in accusations of mismanagement, bribery, and cronyism. Because of the conflicts, today there are two or three Indigenous organizations in communities where previously only one existed.

Since 2013, mining operations at Pascua-Lama have been suspended because of environmental and regulatory compliance issues. In early September 2015, an indefinite halt of operations was announced because of escalating costs (the project has cost more than $5 billion to date), the declining price of gold on the international markets (a price of $1,500 per ounce is needed to make the project feasible), and share-holder dis-satisfaction with performance.

However, while mining operations may have halted for now, the Pascua-Lama mining project has done enduring damage to the social fabric of the valley.

Read the full report published by MiningWatch Canada and OLCA (Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales).


Extractive Industries and Human Rights in Central Africa

29 September, 2015

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights held a sub-regional consultation for Central Africa, in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from 13 to 15 July 2015. The consultation brought together different stakeholders to enable an open dialogue about the challenges encountered in the context of extractive activities in Central Africa, and how to develop sustainable solutions, best practices and a way forward.

Civil society organisations, individual activists, indigenous representatives and lawyers from the sub-region reviewed the legal framework on land tenure in Central Africa, the human rights violations resulting from extractive industry activities, and also evaluated the existing accountability mechanisms for the exploitation of natural resources in Central Africa.

Community land rights and investment conditions in Central Africa

Community rights pertaining to natural resources and the impact of extractive industries on human rights and the environment are complex issues in Central Africa. The land tenure system in most Central African States creates great uncertainty around the customary rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. According to most national Constitutions, States exercise permanent sovereignty, in particular over the soil, subsoil, water resources and forests, airspace, rivers, lakes and maritime space as well as the territorial sea. This public ownership of land and natural resources is translated into different sectoral laws, including mining and forest codes, which restrict indigenous communities’ rights to freely manage and determine their rights to their lands and livelihoods. Unsecure tenure makes it impossible to stem land grabbing in the sub-region, and as a consequence, mining industry expansion exerts great pressure on community rights to land.

A short-term economic approach to natural resource governance still prevails in Central Africa, with serious consequences for social development and the environment. Even when Central African States engage in legal reform processes to review their mining codes, the primary objective is to create a friendly environment for attracting foreign investors through incentives such as tax relief. Land grabbing, forced eviction, child labour and water resources pollution jeopardise the social development of local communities who rarely see any economic benefit from the exploitation that takes place.

The Chairperson of the Working Group, Commissioner Pacifique Manirakiza, stressed that although natural resources are an important source of income for the economies of Central African States, the contribution of mining companies to local development is trivial. The Group also acknowledged that human rights violations in the context of extractive industries not only involve violations of substantive rights, but also procedural rights such as the right to consultation, participation and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). In this regard, potential action points contemplated by the Working Group include developing FPIC Guidelines in collaboration with research partners such as International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Legal Resources Centre (LRC), and FPP.

There was a general consensus among the ACHPR Working Group members and participants to the Consultation that clarifying and securing land tenure and forest resource rights is an essential precondition for the design of sustainable mining in the sub-region.

In search of shelter: the plight of communities evicted from their land by Ruashi Mining Sprl

A pressing example of the struggles faced by local communities in the face of extractive industries was shared during the conference. Forced eviction is among the most common human rights violations faced by indigenous and local communities in the exploitation of natural resources in Central Africa and in DRC in particular, and the Working Group was also concerned by the forced eviction of local communities living in villages near the city of Lubumbashi. These latest reports come on top of a history of large scale displacements in the Katanga Province as a result of the mining industry. The Working Group also undertook a field visit to the site of Ruashi Mining Sprl where at least 6000 households were evicted from their land in 2010 without adequate compensation.

According to Kapupu Diwa Mutimanwa, an indigenous people’s leader in DRC, the issue of customary lands of indigenous peoples that have been appropriated for the purpose of mining requires special attention from the African Commission.


FPP E-Newsletter September 2015