August 21, 2017

Bloodshed in the quest for mineral resources

In world distracted by many goings-on (the war on ISIS and recently the Panama leaks, come to mind), the mafia-style murder of Sikhosiphi Rhadebe, a community leader on the Eastern Cape Coast titanium rich sand-rich area of Xolobeni in South Africa, will just remain a small, trivial fleeting footnote, if at all.

Rhadebe’s death is a microcosm of how ugly the conflict of interest between pro-mining investment proponents, on the one hand, and their opponents can get, on the other can get. Significantly, it demonstrates the lengths that people with thriftless ambition can go to eliminate obstacles between themselves and what they perceive to be their figurative pot of gold: unfettered access to mineral ore and potential wealth.

This has been happening since time immemorial where people are involved in the struggle for scarce resources. But, in modern mining, there is a perverse dimension: the real players pulling strings in the shadows. Amnesty International has faulted multinationals for being complicit in human rights abuses in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone and untrammeled violation of environmental regulations in some parts of Africa.

Not just that. When communities resist plans of exploring mineral resources, there have been reports that multinationals bribe corrupt government officials to get mining licences approved, overriding legislation. At times, they are said to deliberately sow conflict between warring factions in communities to profit from instability.

All in all, as long as the current situation where governments, desperate for foreign direct investment, grant carte blanche to mining companies to do as they wish, we are yet to see more tragedies of community leaders.

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