The mining sector is central to a growing number of African economies. Many African governments believe that mining-led growth is one of the few opportunities to develop and catch up with other countries. But while the polarised debate about whether large-scale mining is a “driver” of development or a “curse” continues, the view from the mostly rural communities that have been directly affected by mining seems to be clear. Despite the jobs that mining may provide, it is contributing very little to improve the overall living conditions at the local level. Instead, host communities face many negative impacts, including resettlement, environmental pollution, health hazards and the disruption of livelihoods.
Cooperation among stakeholders in the sector is generally poor. Groups that represent affected communities are hardly recognised as legitimate stakeholders with the right to a place at the bargaining table. Where engagements do take place, the terms are defined by actors external to the community. Although the policy and regulatory environment has progressed, and an increasing number of companies have also committed themselves to improving their environmental and social footprint, the gap between rhetoric and reality is wide.
In response, an increasing number of communities have begun to build their capacity for meaningful engagement with external actors, such as government agencies and mining companies. With this edition of Perspectives, the Heinrich Böll Foundation explores some of the approaches and instruments that communities and their NGO partners have developed to create room for community-centred stakeholder participation, and to champion community interests and rights.
The HBS Southern Africa would like to dedicate this edition of Perspectives to slain South African community activist Sikhosipi “Bozooka” Rhadebe who as chairman of the Amadiba Crisis Committee dedicated much of his life to the fight against the planned mining of his ancestral land. May he rest in peace.
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