Community concerns are totally ignored when mining companies seek government approval for development programmes for areas near their operations in South Africa, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, based at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand says.
The institution, which is lobbying for tougher regulation, says local communities are not consulted and have no right to veto the mines in the event of breach of agreement.
In five case studies of mines, ranging from platinum and coal extraction to clay, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies discovered that most communities were unaware of the commitments companies made in the social plans and in almost all cases those promises weren’t fulfilled.
The plans, along with legislation demanding greater black ownership of assets that account for about half of South Africa’s exports, are supposed to be part of the post-apartheid government’s plans to reduce inequality. Typically, mines in South Africa are surrounded shanty towns housing migrant workers, while environmental damage to surrounding areas regularly threatens the livelihoods of local communities.
“Our case studies, together with the testimonies of mining communities, would suggest that social and labor plans are not assisting in overcoming systemic inequality,” the study’s authors, Robert Krause and Louis Snyman, lament. “There should be circumstances in which communities are to be accorded the right to say ‘no’ to mining.”
Amongst some of the commitments the companies had failed to meet were building houses, childcare centers and funding bursaries.
A mining legislation introduced in 2004 requires mines to establish and implement social and labour plans in order to be granted a mining licence.