A BILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
Is Mining Profitable for Communities’ health, water and land.
All over the world and the country, mining has been seen as a number one sector that provides Jobs and economic development. In many areas in South Africa, Communities suffer negative impact of mining such as Air Pollution, Water Pollution, health problems,unfair labour practice and people being displaced from their land.
On the 7 June 2013, Lamosa organised A People Space in Moretela Park. The space has four tents with different topic such as Climate Change and Energy, The impact of Mining, Small Scale Farming and Land Reformed. Bench Marks Foundation was invited to facilitate a session on Impact of Mining on Communities. We had a panel consisting of Christopher Rutledge from ActionaAid SA talking about why is important to have our own mining peoples charter not just mining charter. We had another interesting discussion by Matthews Hlabane from Southern Africa Green Revolution Council talking about the Impact of Mining in our water resource. Molefi from GUBICO spoke about life after mining. Our theme was One Billion Dollar Question? Is mining profitable for Communities health, water and Land.
Matthews lead a discussion on the impact of mining on water. Mines polluted all the streams and rivers in the area and some communities have to buy water to avoid getting illness from untreated water. Not so many people can afford to buy water as they don’t have jobs. Thy have choice buying water now and electricity or bread which all the basic needs that one can not live without. Many people are experiencing health problems such as skin irritation, diarrhoea and many other illnesses related to drinking the polluted water. Some of the dams you can see that there is no life in the water because too much acid in the water. This problem of water has affected food security as some of small scale farmer can not produce food anymore because also the quality of the soil that has been contaminated. Some of the farmers have to live their areas to make the way for mining. Graves has been removed without proper arrangement with the family or fair compensation. The extend of the damage has been accelerated by our government by not being able to monitor this mining companies and enforce laws to hold the mines accountable.
In Welkom, Molefi Thebeeahae shared with the participants that mines in Welkom left communities with nothing but sicknesses, without proper rehabilitation and empty building where most of the criminal activities are taking place. Many people lost their homes because they can not afford to pay rent and moved to squatter camps. The municipality in Thabong fails to run proper service delivery as many people can not pay their service. The number of HIV/AIDS is very high in that area. There is no proper water and Sanitation.
Christopher talked about Mining Charter and Peoples Mining Charter. There was no public participation during the development of the Mining Charter. The mining charter was developed to bring into effect the aims of MPRDA. The goal was to create a mining industry that will proudly reflect the promise of non-racial South Africa. But when you look at this the only promise that has been achieved is the promise of greed and the standardised methods of one size fit all. Only few communities know about the Mining Charter and it does not represent the benefit of the communities.
Some one will ask what are the needs of the communities. All the participants agreed that they want government to disclose the impact of mining. Communities said they want mining to stop taking minerals and living them destitute. Government must stop allowing greed take over land, water and wellbeing and livelihoods. Participants feels like MPRDA gives mining companies power that supersede even the Constitutional Right. We have a bill of right that does not mean anything when coming to mines. The participants also feels like communities are in the periphery, mining will not benefit anyone expect few elites. There must transparency, access of information that will give communities knowledge to participate meaningful and take informed decisions. All communities who are affected by mining their voices need to be heard all their demands will be included in the document that will be send to the government departments. Day two all the participants marched to Union Building to deliver the memorandum.
Thanks to all participants from all affected area, Vaal, Welkom, Mokopane, Emerlo, Witbank, Middleburg and many other areas. Thanks Lamosa for inviting the Benchmarks Foundation to the sharing and learning space.