On the weekend of the 15 December 2001, a gathering of organisations occurred to deliberate on the challenges facing the Mining industry.

Below is their decleration, which includes the intent to bring a plan of action to bring to the Summit.

The policy platform presents policy work in progress for purposes of information sharing and provoking further contributions. These are not official positions of civil society, although they are positions taken by groups in civil society after debate and discussion. They may, after further discussion, become part of a South African civil society position.

Mining Summit Declaration

13th 15th December 2001

 

We the Mining Sector Network - made up of Trade Unions, Mining affected communities and NGOs - gathered this weekend at Shaft 17 and deliberated on challenges and issues facing the mining sector and industry.

In the main we recognised that the government has taken important steps to re-orientate and re-align mining policy to ensure that environmental standards are protected and harmonised with other laws promoting sustainable development. However, while there are environmental requirements placed on new mines several problems still exist. Old mines that are abandoned and unused and which are having devastating environmental consequences are not covered by the new laws. Rehabilitation of old mines is proceeding slowly and communities are not part of the decision-making processes that allocates resources for this. At the same time, consultation by mining houses and government to develop and approve Environmental Management Programs for new mines is overly technical and is not taking on aboard the needs, interests and concerns of communities.

The commitment by government to promote small scale mining was acknowledged in our deliberations. We believe this is an important step to redistribute mineral rights and ensure black economic empowerment. However, we also believe it is important for government to ensure finance is made available together with technical support for small scale miners. Most importantly we are of the opinion that small scale mining is only sustainable if it happens through collective forms of ownership like co-operatives, contributes to the development of local communities and is properly planned to ensure that there is proper environmental management.

As a summit we debated and emerged with a considered position against supporting the use of nuclear energy in South Africa, as part of the minerals and energy complex. We believe the planned pebble bed reactor and nuclear fuels plant is going to be costly and dangerous. The threat of radiation exposure and fall out is very real and we do not believe that South Africa requires nuclear power to meet its energy needs. We believe that there are many renewable, safe and clean alternatives that can be combined to meet our energy needs like solar, wind and wavewhich should be taken seriously. We want public investment in such renewable and sustainable alternatives now.

As part of our discussions we interrogated the nature of the mining industry in Africa. The legacy of colonialism and postcolonial exploitation of mineral and energy resources have not benefited most mineral resourced countries on the continent. Current policy trends towards liberalisation and deregulation are further re-inforcing economic under-development and ecological destruction of African countries. The main beneficiaries of mining and energy in Africa are mainly foreign mining companies. Some of these companies are South African like Anglo American and De Beers and they have consistently extracted minerals and wealth from African countries without contributing to economic development and environmental sustainability. We believe this issue has to be actively engaged with and as a summit we have pledged solidarity with mining affected communities, trade unions and NGOs in other parts of Africa that are fighting these large mining companies to ensure economic and environmental justice.

In our deliberations we studied closely the Minerals and Mining Sustainable Development Project (MMSD). We believe this project is driven by mining businesses and has attempted to present an agenda for the future of the mining industry that serves the interests of mining companies. We call on participants in the MMSD process like trade unions to rethink their role and engagement. In the main we call on the National Union of Mineworkers in South Africa to lead our engagement with the MMSD such that we are able to champion our interests within and outside the MMSD process. In short we believe the agenda of environmentally damaged mining communities, trade unions and NGOs is central and more important than the MMSD.

In this regard, we have at our summit adopted a program of action, which we would take to the World Summit on Sustainable Development and beyond, comprised of the following elements:

  • A Charter which highlights the principles we stand for to engage mining companies, our government and other global forces. In the main, we stand for sustainable and environmentally sound mining practices and policies, transparency, mass participation and people driven mining policy, local investment and control of mining, worker rights, sustainable land use, environmental justice and compensation for communities affected by environmental abuses;

  • A Campaign of Rolling Action for 2002 an international tribunal which would "name and shame" delinquent mining companies that have engaged and are engaging in environmental abuses, involving the South African Human Rights Commission in investigating mines, conscientise the media, black listing mines, seminars and site visits, a march at the earth summit and provincial reports backs;

  • An Earth Summit Agenda which includes a focus on the limits of Foreign Direct Investment, problems with policy grounded to meet the needs of FDI, Aids and its link with the hostel system on mines, breaking up monopoly control of the mining industry, addressing gender imbalances in mining, reparations for environmental injustices

We believe that the process pre and post the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) is an important opportunity to expose the environmental, social and economic injustices suffered in the mining industry. However, we are also concerned by the way the NGO sector is being organised for the WSSD. We believe and have mandated the mining sector network to engage with the Civil Society Ndaba and its secretariat to ensure that all NGO processes are democratic and inclusive. In particular we believe it is important: for an environmental sector to be represented in the NGO/Civil Society Indaba; mass organisations like COSATU, SANCO, the National Co-operative Association of South Africa all be given adequate representation; a more holistic approach be adopted that links ecology, economics and social dimensions to sustainable development; there is flexibility around building alliances to champion environmental demands for sustainable development and that the process to develop substantive positions for the Earth Summit involve not just networks but as many NGOs as possible. In short it is important that the WSSD preparatory process unifies civil society in South Africa.

We as the mining network in South Africa are committed to continue the struggle, alongside Third World and other progressive forces, to ensure community and worker rights and demands for sustainable development are respected by mining companies and the mining industry.

To comment or suggest changes contact [email protected]. Civil society organizations can also forward proposed policy positions and declarations to the same address.