Monthly Archives: August 2016

Uganda: Residents, Tororo Cement Clash Over Mining Rights

21 AUGUST 2016
The Monitor (Kampala)

By Steven Ariong

Moroto — Residents of Tapac Sub-county in Moroto District have accused commissioners from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development of illegally giving Tororo Cement mining licence without consulting the local community.

The locals accused the commissioners on Friday during a meeting with Tororo Cement officials in Moroto.

The commissioners were in Moroto to discuss a land dispute between Tororo Cement and the community in Kosiroi village where the company has been mining marble stones.

On Friday last week, a group of elders and youth in the mining area of Kosiroi in Tapac protested and blocked trucks transporting raw materials to Tororo Cement until the company explained how it acquired the mining licence for 49 square kilometres without their knowledge.

They said for more than 15 years, Tororo Cement has been extracting marble stones in the area but refused to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the community or the district leaders.

Mr Joseph Otita, Moroto LC5 councillor representing Rupa Sub-county, wondered why the ministry gave Tororo Cement a mining lease without recommendation from the local community who are the land owners.

Mr David Omido, the logistics and utility manager at Tororo Cement, admitted they did not have any MoU with either the district administration or the local community. But he said they had requested the district leaders to prepare an MoU for signing but they failed.

However, former Moroto LC5 chairperson Mark Musoka said his office had drafted an MoU and asked Tororo Cement to facilitate the process but the company did not comply.

Mr Chris Rudigizah, the assistant commission mining said leases are granted to every interested investor as long as they meet the requirements.


Kenya: Taita Taveta Miners Under Probe Over Human Rights Violations

18th August 2016

By Abiud Ochieng

Mining companies in Taita Taveta County will be investigated over allegations of human rights violations.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has stated that it will launch investigations into claims of abuse of mine workers and communities in three sub-counties.

The investigations will involve a public inquiry which will begin on August 22 to September 2.

In a statement, KNCHR Chairperson Kagwiria Mbogori said they have been receiving and documenting complaints from individuals and groups in Voi, Mwatate and Wundanyi.

Among the issues raised by the aggrieved parties are exploitation of the community by mining companies, irregular and unlawful acquisition of community land by private investors, threats of forced evictions and demolition of houses, widespread labour malpractices and environmental concerns.

Ms Mbogori said the aim of the inquiry is to unearth the human rights violations in the mining sector.

“We also seek to ensure the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms as envisioned in Chapter 4 of the Constitution of Kenya,” Mr Mbogori.

The public inquiry will incorporate participation of the public, investors and other key government and non-governmental stakeholders working in the County.

She encouraged victims and stakeholders to participate in the public forum and submit oral evidence or written submissions.

The findings, results and recommendations will be published and shared with key and relevant players in both public and private institutions.

The Commission will also use the opportunity to empower communities to participate in decision making on various aspects of human rights in the mining sector.


Papua New Guinea: PNG gives mine shares to Bougainville

Radio New Zealand

August 17, 2016

The Papua New Guinea Government is to transfer mining shares gifted it by Rio Tinto, to the people of Bougainville.

The Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, told parliament today his government is aware of the pain and torment the people of Bougainville have gone through, and the importance of land to them.

The shares in Bougainville Copper Ltd, which had run the long shut-down Panguna mine, will ensure the autonomous government has a majority shareholding in the company.

Bougainville President John Momis has been pressing for the shares for weeks and had threatened legal action against both Rio Tinto and the national government.

A critical concern for Mr Momis is that Rio Tinto is walking away without clearing the damaging legacy left by the mine such as ongoing environmental and social issues.

Last week, Mr Momis signalled the Bougainville administration could take legal action against Rio.

Mr O’Neill has now told parliament his government is serious about empowering communities and giving Bougainville’s landowners and the people direct control over any future mine developments.

He added that this transfer of shares further strengthens the confidence of Bougainvilleans in the peace process.


Canadian company tried to stop referendum on mine in Guatemala

Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources filed a lawsuit to prevent a village from voting on their mine — which the people rejected by 98 per cent.

Foreign Affairs Reporter

Thu., Aug. 11, 2016

A Toronto legal aid group is calling on the American securities regulator to investigate a Canadian mining company for failing to disclose a secret lawsuit aimed at preventing a referendum on its silver mine.

Even though the 2011 suit was rejected by the Constitutional Court of Guatemala — permitting a vote that overwhelmingly rejected the mine — local human rights groups say the mine’s parent company, Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources, failed in its legal obligation to disclose the lawsuit to investors.

“Publicly traded companies have an obligation under securities legislation to disclose truthfully on matters that may affect their operations. Here we have a case where they are hiding significant opposition,” said Shin Imai, a York University law professor who prepared the report on behalf of two Guatemalan rights groups.

Since Tahoe’s stock trades in both Toronto and New York, Imai, who sits on the board of York’s Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, chose to file the complaint at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission because he said it has more rigorous standards. Imai hopes the report will draw investors’ attention to Tahoe’s practices, and may lead some to follow the Norwegian Government Pension Fund’s decision to divest from the stock.

The report alleges the lawsuit was one of four filed at Guatemala’s highest court by Tahoe and its supporters and calls into question the company’s commitment to securing local indigenous support for the mine — a standard that is becoming the norm at resource development projects on indigenous territory in Canada and abroad.

The lawsuits “show the extent to which Tahoe and its allies feared the results of the votes and the extent to which they would thwart democratic rights to vote,” the report states.

Tahoe Vice President Edie Hofmeister says the company stands by its record of disclosing litigation and contests the legitimacy of the referendums, which she says do not reflect the true will of the communities.

“The plebiscites…that some of the communities were holding were in direct violation of the law,” she said, pointing to what she called undue influence from outside organizations and non-residents, slanted ballot questions and ineligible voters.

“Some years ago, there were (lawsuits) by some of the chambers of industry in Guatemala that we joined because of those unfairness issues,” Hofmeister said.

More than 27,000 people voted against the mine in four municipalities, according to results seen by the Star. In separate votes held between 2011 and 2015, they rejected the “mine” by over 98 per cent, a result which is nevertheless non-binding.

Hofmeister says these lopsided totals call into question the soundness of the polls.

“These are the people most directly affected by the mine and their decision isn’t being respected,” said Becky Kaump, who works with the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala, one of the groups that submitted the report to the SEC.

Should the SEC find Tahoe didn’t meet its disclosure requirements, it could fine individual corporate officers found to be personally liable.

Cases like Tahoe’s mine project illustrate the tension between Canadian mining companies’ desire to expand, in Canada and abroad, and the right of local indigenous people to grant or withhold their “free, prior and informed consent.”

The term, enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has been adopted into policy statements ranging from the International Labour Organization’s Convention on Indigenous Peoples to the private sector’s Equator Principles to individual companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility policies. It remains unclear, however, exactly what companies must do to obtain consent for their projects, and what locals can do to reject them.

“It comes down to this: who gets to determine what is a legitimate community consultation? Is it the communities? The municipalities? The courts? Or these companies that have obvious vested interests that their projects go forward?” said Lisa Rankin a co-coordinator of Breaking the Silence, a solidarity group that has been working in the area around Tahoe’s mine since 2011.

Located an hour and a half outside of Guatemala City, Tahoe’s Escobal mine isn’t located on indigenous land and the local municipality didn’t hold a referendum. However, the Xinca people who voted to reject the mine live just a few kilometres away and stand in the path of the mine’s expansion.

The mine faced opposition years before it began operating in 2014. At protests in April 2013, private security guards fired rubber bullets into the crowd, injuring at least six people, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The mine’s director of security has been criminally charged for allegedly ordering his guards to open fire.

Shortly afterward, then-President of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, declared a state of emergency and deployed 8,500 police officers to the area around the mine. Twenty six protesters were arrested for “unlawful assembly,” but the charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence.

The violence at Escobal mine was singled out by Amnesty International as an example of how foreign companies need to do more to ensure respect for Human Rights.

“The use of force by Minera San Rafael private security providers using rubber bullets against protesters in April 2013 was inconsistent with these principles,” the organization stated in a report on mining in Guatemala.

Before the violence broke out, opposition to the mine was peaceful and organized. Five local municipalities held plebiscites — a right enshrined in Guatemalan law — and a majority of voters rejected the mine. While international observers focused on the protests, Imai discovered four lawsuits filed with the Constitutional Court of Guatemala between 2011 and 2015, seeking to invalidate the results.

One of the lawsuits was filed by Tahoe’s subsidiary, Minera San Rafael, two by the Guatemalan Chamber of Commerce and one by lawyers who support the mining industry, Imai said.

“Tahoe is supposed to disclose litigation that they themselves bring as well as any (other lawsuits) that affect their property or operations,” he said.

All four suits were dismissed by Guatemala’s highest court, which ruled in one case that “it is clear that plebiscites are important mechanisms for guaranteeing fundamental rights and a clear expression of democracy,” according to a translation included in the report.

Tahoe VP Hofmeister says opposition to the mine has subsided.

“Since we went into production, the civil unrest there has completely died down. We have not lost one day due to blockage,” she said.

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund — one of the world’s largest — decided in January 2015 to divest from Tahoe, after an investigation into allegations of human rights abuses.

“There is an unacceptable risk of Tahoe Resources contributing to serious human rights violations,” according to the results of an investigation carried out by the Norwegian Council on Ethics.


Namibia: Our Resources Exploited By Foreigners for Too Long – Pohamba

By Matheus Hamutenya

Oranjemund — Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba says the mineral resources of the country, such as its diamonds, have been exploited by others for too long, and thus those that have done so should now “give back more”.

Speaking at a fundraising gala dinner held at Oranjemund on Friday, Pohamba said that for over eight decades Namibia has seen its resources controlled by foreign companies, which meant that Namibian resources did not directly benefit its people, who continue to languish in poverty.

He singled out the wealthy Oppenheimer family as one of those that have exploited Namibian resources for their own selfish benefit. Pohamba indicated that the family have for long exploited Namibian diamonds and enriched themselves and their country at the expense of Namibia’s people.

He further said that it is evident that those exploiting Namibia’s mineral resources are reluctant to share their wealth, citing the Rosh Pinah-Oranjemund road as an example of testimony that the exploiters think it’s a waste of money if they invest in the country. He recalled an unpleasant encounter with Nicky Oppenheimer at State House, while he was still president, saying he had asked the South African tycoon and former chairman of De Beers diamond mining company to build a road between the two towns, but Oppenheimer had refused point-blank and told him that his company was already paying taxes.

Pohamba said Oppenheimer’s response left him “emotional” and he asked him to leave his office, as he had felt insulted.

“I said Nicky, your parents have been exploiting our resources and it’s now time to put up a road, but he told me he was already paying taxes,” he said, adding: “His family took the resources of this country and when we ask him to set up a road, he says government must do it, that’s an insult.”

He said Oppenheimer’s response was evidence that he was raised not to answer to a black person when taken to task.

Pohamba then turned to the general manager of Namdeb, Riaan Burger, urging him to convince his colleagues to avail more financial resources to help develop the town and especially to replace its dilapidated infrastructure.

He further called on everyone to support the president and his ministers to implement the Harambee Prosperity Plan for the good of the country.

He was however adamant that although the Harambee plan calls for everyone to pull in the same direction to develop the country, those that have taken and continue to get a large chunk of Namibia’s wealth must give more.

“Yes, we are altogether, but those who exploited this country should make more resources available,” the former head of state hammered home his point.

Pohamba also highlighted government’s progress in ensuring that resources benefit the Namibian people, noting that government has since independence pushed for ownership of the mines and now has a 51 percent stake in Namdeb, which he says allows Namibia to have a say in how its diamonds are managed.