National Association of Artisanal Miners Media Statement: 04 September 2019

We would like to thank the blessing of the Higher Powers to all the parties that participated in the formation of NAAM.

We would like to thank all the stakeholders that provided aid and guidance, various NGO’s particularly MACUA & WAMUA leadership, Legal Resource Centre, Action Aid SA, Media Houses; the organizing interim structures; sponsors and all the people responsible for arranging, facilitating this event and up to the point where we are gathered for a historical moment of launching for the first time ever (NAAM) National Association of Artisanal Miners.

We thank all stakeholders who convened dialogues; workshops; meetings; hearings and investigations; comments; knowledge; expertise and kind assistance, without your participation, inputs, and ideas, the development of this process would not have been possible.

We have held many discussions over the past years which tried to understand why in South Africa, artisanal mining is not legally recognized, despite its growth and the potential opportunities for broad-based economic opportunities that it offers, both economically and socially.

Artisanal miners have been victimized and treated as criminals with their right to dignity being infringed at every turn. Artisanal miners are vulnerable and marginalized individuals who are attempting to achieve their social and economic rights through self-determination and have a desire to see an appropriate policy and legislative framework put in to place that addresses their economic and social needs.

Furthermore, there is a poor understanding of the profile of the artisanal miner in South Africa as not all of these individuals and groups are involved in or, began with the intention of becoming involved in criminal syndicates.

Not all host mining communities have negative views around artisanal mining activity. Many appreciate the economic and social value that work opportunities bring to their communities.

Not all Artisanal Miners are foreign nationals, and neither are they all “illegal immigrants”. The research which we conducted with Wits University shows that by far the majority are South African Citizens.

It is noted that the current socio-economic situation in South Africa has pushed many people into mining activities out of sheer need to eat rather than as opportunistic criminals.

There are artisanal mining processes that have the potential to enable job creation and support informal trade and other local economic activities if it is allowed to blossom and grow.

Artisanal mining has the potential to employ millions and feed even more if a more open approach is used to sharing the wealth of the country.

For too long a small minority has benefitted at our expense and then taken the wealth of the country outside of our borders. Yet hungry people are faced with brutality and illegality while corporate greed is celebrated, and demand for equality falls on deaf ears.

Research shows that if the ASM sector currently employs between 30 000 and 100 000 people and only accounts for 0.1% of turnover in the sector. If we were to grow the sector to 10% of the mining value created, then we could employ up to a million people.

In the face of an unemployment crises, we find it hard to justify why such an important jobs growth industry is allowed to be dominated by monopolies who are retrenching rather employing.

It is because of these reasons and many more to follow in this conference, that highlighted the importance to form a National body that provides a voice to the marginalised and poor. That advocates and represents the historically disadvantaged African women and men from distressed mining communities. An organisation that can work for an appropriate, consistent, and transparent policy and regulatory framework that focuses on the welfare of all its citizens not only on the few.

NAAM it is an association of mining affected communities; civil societies; artisanal forums; interested and affected parties calling for formalization and decriminalization of the artisanal mining activities in line with the Peoples Mining Charter.

NAAM’s aim is to bring to the public attention the great value that artisanal miners can add to the country and its people if only the interests of the few did not trump the interests of the many.

NAAM’s will promote the need for a holistic, collaborative approach by all role players – government; civil society; and large scale mining houses, to address the opportunities and challenges posed by unregulated artisanal mining, encouraging a transformed economic model which builds from the bottom up and which aims at sharing the wealth.

NAAM is formed to enforce; facilitate and monitor the implementation and adherence of these recommendations into the environmental, social, and governance issues related to; business and human rights in the context of meaningful development of previously economically oppressed African communities in the extractive industries.

NAAM’s objective is to foster public participation in local economic development planning of work, related to abandoned mines and tailings; rehabilitation and land reform for improved livelihoods in rural and mining communities of South Africa

We acknowledge the fact that unregulated activities are synonymous with social, health and environmental ills, making it even more challenging.

NAAM members are aware that certain artisanal mining activities, such as the use of mercury and working in dangerous shafts should not be tolerated, hence NAAM supports and promotes safer artisanal mining processes that have the potential to enable job creation and support informal trade and other local economic activities– to address the opportunities and challenges posed by unregulated artisanal mining.

The MPRDA caters for medium-to-large scale mines and small-scale operators. However, the current mining enabling legislation does not adequately provide for artisanal mining.

The MPRDA must be amended to promote equitable access to the nation’s mineral resources. Substantially and meaningfully expand opportunities for historically disadvantaged persons, including women, to enter the mineral industry and to benefit from the exploitation of the nation’s mineral and resources…”

Legislation setting out guidelines for regulating the mining industry, the Mineral and Resources Petroleum Act 28 of 2002 (MPRDA) focuses mainly on Large Scale Mining, with a few exceptions.

Section23 of the MPRDA Amendment of 2012 describes a permitting process for allowing small-scale mining on an area not exceeding 5 hectares, which can be mined optimally within a period of two years. Unlike the mining right requirement for LSM, obtaining a mining permit does not require an economic or social and labor plan. Yet, this process can still be quite onerous as it requires submitting technical applications and environmental management plans and applications of environmental authorizations, which may not be clear or doable for poor men and women who are found to be artisanal miners, and certainly out of reach for them.

Even though the national Department of Mineral Resources indicated that the MPRDA could provide permits: other recommendations that followed included legislative reform which dealt solely with the illegal miners and primarily included ways to increase penalties against them.

The above highlights a fragmented approach to administering and regulating the artisanal mining sector.

While a Directorate of Small-Scale Mining exists to promote development of the sector and provide support to artisanal and small-scale miners, in practice, the response of the Executive and Legislature to the activities of these miners has been to further penalize them.

In practice regulation has not promoted the growth of legal artisanal mining. The MPRDA and various government departments have failed to prevent criminal and dangerous practices due to lack of policy regulation.

We thus call on the Minister of Minerals and Energy and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to urgently engage us on finding a solution to the challenges of the sector, based on the Peoples Mining Charter, so that we can grow our economy, employ the people and prosper as a nation. We insist that this is only possible if we work together and if we follow the intent of the Freedom Charter and the Constitution which encourages the state to be the custodian of sharing the wealth.

We furthermore call on the State to act on its obligations to ensure that we have the right to work and chose our own professions, so that we can claim our dignity.

ENDS For further Comment Please contact:
Zethu Hlatswayo (National Spokesperson): 082 930 9312
Paps Lethoka (National Coordinator): 076 028 0187
Millicent Shungube ( National Women`s Coordinator)