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Building sustainable mining in Africa
February 24, 2018, 3:47 pm

Representatives to the annual African Mining Indaba, which was held in Cape Town, South Africa from 5 to 8 February, were urged to go beyond mere philanthropy and address the real challenges facing mining communities in Africa.

Addressing representatives to the annual mining conference John Capel, the executive director of leading non-governmental organization Bench Marks Foundation, told mining bosses that good neighborliness for mines begins with the recognition that there are losers, and that the losers are usually the communities whose social, economic and cultural life were destroyed by mines.

The Bench Marks Foundation was a key sponsor of the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI), that took place in parallel to the main indaba at the same time in Cape Town. The AMI’s aim is to achieve sustainable extraction of minerals in Africa and equal distribution of revenues from natural resources.

The AMI has been meeting annually since 2010 at the same time as the African Mining Indaba. In 2017, it was allowed for the first time to present its declaration to the main indaba in 2017, having previously been refused permission to do so.

“Mines need to support an independent capacity building fund that allows communities to have access to specialist expertise and improves their ability to organize. Stronger, better organized, and empowered communities lead to level playing fields, and ensure better relations and outcomes. On the other hand, unequal power relations lead to disempowered, unknowledgeable, and angry communities,” Mr. Capel said.

He told delegates that dialogue was not possible in an unequal power relationship. “Dialogue among equals opens the way to solutions which in turn flow from capacitated communities and a social justice vision.

Participation by mines in an independent problem-solving service, such as that offered by Bench Marks Foundation, would result in impartial facilitators and provide multiple ways to resolve problems. He added that the Foundation’s problem-solving service had been recognized by the UNGP in 2017 as a very important contribution “going beyond the abstract to practical ways to address remedy. Such solutions will lead to improved relations and sustainable mines and communities,” he said.


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