The continuing systemic marginalisation and exclusion of mining affected communities who are directly impacted by mining activities from meaningfully participating in the sector has persistently contributed to the growing inequality in the country. This reality is not unknown to those who sit in lofty positions deciding which stakeholders are prioritised. Various reports have highlighted the dire systemic inequalities which underpin the mining sector. From the High-level Report by Kgalema Motlanthe (2018) to the South African Human Rights Report on the National Hearing on the Underlying Socio-economic Challenges of Mining-affected Communities in South Africa (2018) and the many reports produced by civil society (Including MACUA & WAMUA), which all confirm the same broad trajectory of the sector, the Portfolio Committee and the DMRE should be well versed on the urgent need to redirect the train wreck that mining poses to communities and the country in general.
The recent uprisings in July of last year which pointed to the ways in which ongoing inequality threatens to explode in unpredictable and violent ways, should provide even greater incentives for the politicians and administrators to take the issue of inequality within the mining sector seriously.
Yet, to our surprise, the presentation made by the Minister and the heads of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy once again glossed over the question of community development. In a Ten Thousand word report of the meeting between the DMRE, the Minister and the Portfolio Committee, a total of 41 words were expressly about communities and economic development. The Minutes record the conversation as follows: “ One area that required focus, not only on environmental compliance, was also compliance with Social and Labour Plans (SLPs). This was an area the DMRE would focus on going forward, especially those areas that could make a huge difference to communities.”
If this lack of focus by the very institutions that are meant to protect the interests of the marginalised and vulnerable is anything to go by, then mining affected communities and their interests, means virtually nothing (0.41%) to those in power.
This lack of concern, interest and oversight on the issues that we have been raising with those in power has played out time and time again. We request meetings and get ignored. We deliver 50 000 petitions, we get ignored. We arrive at public hearings, we get excluded. We win court cases and still get ignored.
In 2018 The DMRE in its own Annual report noted that:
“ Sustainability demands that the industry treats social sustainability with the same seriousness as it does with economic sustainability…[t]his is likely to ensure the benefits of mining are shared in a way that is distributionally fair and leading to social cohesion, and thus ensuring the industry’s social license to operate is not withdrawn.”
Four years later, the DMRE and the Portfolio Committee on Natural Resources and Energy continue to ignore the interests of affected communities even though the evidence of non-compliance by the industry, with the approval and consent of the DMRE, continues to mount.
In 2018 MACUA and WAMUA, in collaboration with ActionAid South Africa, released a baseline report which highlighted the extent of the problem. In that report we suggested that from 2007 to June 2018, the South African Mining Industry has accumulated and reported net profits of R221 Billion over this period. Close to
R5.92 billion of the estimated R7.5 billion earmarked for community development did not reach its intended beneficiaries during this period. Projects meant to advance community development are not trickling down to communities in the way corporations and the DMRE routinely project to their shareholders and the public.
Instead, between 2018 and 2022, MACUA and WAMUA have undertaken 10 social Audits in various communities affected by mining and incorporating many different mining operations who mine various minerals.
Across all the Social Audits conducted, we found consistent evidence of serial non-compliance by mining companies. Non-compliance ranged from, failing to consult with communities about their developmental needs as required by the licencing process, to routinely missing delivery dates for projects which are rolled over in-ad-finitum or leaving projects half done and incomplete.
In one serious case of corporate and regulatory failure, we found that Foskor mine in the Phalaborwa area where community unrest related to the mining sector’s non non-compliance has resulted in both death and destruction of property, we found that Foskor failed to fulfil its legally binding obligations under its 2013 – 2017 SLP. Far from a simple delay, or a single incomplete project, Foskor appears to have largely ignored its SLP commitments altogether, with the blessing and approval of the DMRE.
Why the DMRE was not questioned more intensively about its failure to hold mining companies to account sits at the heart of the exclusion experienced by mining affected communities.
We call on the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy to urgently live up to its commitments it made to meet with us to discuss this and other issues in more detail. We call on the PC to overcome the years of failure to hold the executive and its functionaries to account as indicated in the Zondo commission hearings and to re-prioritise the interests of the people over the interest of politically connected individuals and companies.