By Lindobuhle David Nene
Mining corporations often neglect and disregard the environment of marginalised and mining-affected communities, and this leads to social unrest, loss of livelihoods and environmental deterioration.
However, these communities have the potential to regain control over their lives and restore their democracy and dignity through various means.
In Philippines, the Didipio community raised concerns about the environmental impact of Didipio Mine, owned by OceanaGold. The community was mainly concerned about the water sources and agricultural lands.
They organised protests, engaged in legal battles and built alliances with environmental groups. Eventually, their efforts paid off, and the government suspended the mining company’s operations.
In Peru, the community of La Oroya, a mining town in the Peruvian Andes where 99% of children have blood levels that exceed acceptable limits, was severely impacted by a lead and zinc smelting operation.
The community— comprised of residents and environmental activists—used peaceful protests, demonstrations, petitions to raise awareness and put pressure on authorities. Additionally, community members have actively engaged in legal avenues, such as filing lawsuits and seeking legal representation to hold the mine accountable for their action.
They have lobbied local and national government officials, urging them to enforce stricter regulations and guidelines to protect the environment and the health of the community members. Through public campaigns and media outreach, they have sought to garner public support and bring attention to their cause.
MACUA’s lobbying efforts in South Africa
These cases highlight the importance of community-led movements and strategic partnerships in challenging powerful mining corporations. In our contexts in South Africa, MACUA-WAMUA is engaged in efforts to fight against the Mineral and Petrol Resources Development Act 2002.
MACUA’s lobbying efforts seek to ensure that communities’ voices are heard, and their concerns are considered. MACUA is lobbying for mining companies to take responsibility for minimising environmental harm and providing fair compensation and opportunities for affected communities.
MACUA is mobilising for effective actions on Social Labour Plans (SLPs) and Integrated Environmental Authorisation (IEA). The difficulties experienced by communities affected by mining are exacerbated by the fact that these efforts are sometimes insufficient or badly executed.
Communities must take decisive steps to guarantee that SLPs attend to their unique needs and concerns if they are to regain their democracy and dignity. They should also insist on open procedures, significant community involvement and strict environmental protections to get the IEA.
Leaning on these trademarked tactics, MACUA’s approach of challenging the status quo involves actively engaging with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE).
In last July, MACUA mobilised for communities affected by mining activities to engage with DMRE regional offices, and these showcased their determination to hold decision-makers accountable.
By directly targeting the source of policy implementation, MACUA challenges the system from within. This approach not only highlights the urgency of their cause but also forces the government to address their concerns. These radical actions emerged as a formidable force in policy advocacy and activism.
Lessons from Xolobeni community
One can also draw valuable lessons from the case of Xolobeni, in the Eastern Cape province. The Xolobeni region is rich in titanium, which attracted the interest of a large mining corporation.
Through mobilisation and advocacy efforts, the community was successful in preventing the mining project as they believed it would destroy their land, culture and livelihoods. This case demonstrates the power of community unity and activism in protecting their rights and preserving their way of life.
Through sustained activism and legal battles, the community demanded a comprehensive SLP that addresses their social and economic needs, ensures fair compensation, and protects their environment and cultural heritage.
One may wonder how did they manage to successfully challenge the mine? The formula for effective mobilisation and advocacy consists of similar ingredients across various contexts. Here are some key factors that contributed to their success:
- Community Unity and Resistance: They recognised the potential negative impacts of the mining project on their land and united in their opposition to the project. They organised themselves, held community meetings and developed a shared vision.
- Mobilisation and Protests: The community actively mobilised and organised protests. They engaged in peaceful demonstrations, marches and rallies, drawing attention to their cause and garnering support from local and international communities.
- Litigation: They filed lawsuits, petitions, and appeals, arguing that the mining project violated their rights to land, culture and a healthy environment. Legal battles provided a platform for the community to present their case, raise awareness, and put pressure on the mining company and government authorities.
- Strategic Alliances: The community-built alliances and partnerships with environmental and human rights organisations, as well as legal experts, to strengthen their position and amplify their voices. These alliances provided additional resources, expertise and networks to support the community’s resistance efforts.
- International Attention and Solidarity: The community’s struggle gained international attention as media outlets reported on their fight, increasing pressure on the mining company and creating solidarity among global communities.