Claims of mining encroachment in DRC and broken promises in SA

Claims of mining encroachment in DRC and broken promises in SA

  • Activists say Canada-registered miner Alphamin Bisie has been operating outside its concession in the DRC’s North Kivu province, and encroaching into community forests.
  • Police in South Africa have arrested seven activists protesting against Anglo American Platinum for what they say is the mining giant’s failure to report back on its social and work commitments to the mining-affected community.
  • Element Africa is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin rounding up brief stories from the commodities industry in Africa.

DRC community accuses Canadian miner of encroaching into their forests

WALIKALE, Democratic Republic of Congo — For the past 10 years, a Canadian-registered company, Alphamin Bisie, has been mining tin in a concession in Walikale, northwest of Goma, the principal city in North Kivu province. But residents of the area have not been consulted by the company as required by the country’s mining law.

The law requires Alphamin to develop a cahier de charges, an agreement between a concession holder and affected communities of Banamwesi and Motondo, that commits the company to social development projects. This consultation would also allow an assessment of the environmental impacts of the mining project.

Alphamin has not fulfilled this requirement. Instead, the company has quietly prospected beyond its concession areas into adjoining forests, according to a civil society activist who asked to remain anonymous for his own safety.

Map with crosshatching showing where Alphamin’s concession areas overlap with the Banamwesi and Motondo community forest concessions (CFCL): the company is accused of mining in these areas without permission.

“Helicopters had been seen,” he told Mongabay. “The community, which was working to secure title to its land in the framework of the government’s community forest project, contacted the territory’s administrator. At the time, the company denied any occupation of the area,”

But, the activist told Mongabay, it was later confirmed that the company has actually begun operating within the boundaries of community forests. The forests belonging to Banamwesi and Motondo cover 13,300 and 23,100 hectares (33,000 and 57,200 acres) respectively. Maps based on data collected by the two communities show the company encroaching into their forests at multiple points.

“This community was not consulted,” Fiston Misona, a leading member of civil society in Walikale, told Mongabay. “They continue to claim their rights, since the occupation has not respected the normal process.”

A report drawn up by civil society groups in 2017 notes that relations between Alphamin Bisie and the communities surrounding its concession in Walikale territory are likely to become strained if the company does not take their grievances into account.

The communities want direct discussions with Alphamin, and for the company to formally recognize that they are affected by its activities.

Contacted by Mongabay, the administrator of Walikale territory declined to comment and referred instead to his superiors in Goma. No official response was forthcoming before publication.
Armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are profiting from the rush for tin and coltan (columbite and tantalite), driven by growing demand from the world’s electronics industries.

Aerial view of Walikale Territory. Image by Sylvain Liechti/MONUSCO via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

S.A. activists arrested in protest at platinum miner’s ‘dismal’ compliance

BURGERSFORT, South Africa — Seven activists from the Sekhukhune Combined Mining-Affected Communities (SCMAC) have been charged with intimidation following a Feb. 17 protest against mining giant Anglo American Platinum in Burgersfort, about 375 kilometers (230 miles) from Johannesburg. The activists were remanded in custody on March 1 after their first court appearance and are awaiting a bail hearing.

According to SCMAC spokesperson Elton Thobejane, the activists — Speeding Mokhabane, Wister Phasha, Stanley Makgopa, Selalenkwe Nkoana, Athalia Nkoana, Kgakishi Nkoana and Hans Nkgabane — were picketing peacefully outside the Twickenham open-pit platinum mine’s Mopetsi camp when the mining company called the police.

Company spokesperson Nomonde Ndwalaza told Mongabay that Anglo American Platinum had called the police after activists “unlawfully blocked the entrance to the mine and threatened and endangered the lives of our employees.”

The protest was against the alleged failure of the mine to report back to the community on its social labor plan (SLP) commitments since 2014, Thobejane told Mongabay.

The Hackney shaft of Anglo American Platinum’s Twickenham mine. Nearby communities say the company has failed to respect commitments under its government-mandated social and labour plan. Image by Magnificent Mndebele via New Frame (CC BY-SA-4.0)

South African mining law obliges companies to make certain commitments to affected communities as part of their application for mining rights.

“Mining companies are legally compelled to hold a minimum of three meetings every year with the mining-affected community to update them on the progress of the SLP commitments. They must also submit an annual report that includes the outcome of the community meeting to the minerals regulator to show that they are complying with their SLP. Anglo American Platinum has dismally failed to adhere to the law,” Thobejane said.

He said Anglo American Platinum has raked in huge profits while neglecting its environmental and social obligations to impoverished communities around its operations in Burgersfort.

Ndwalaza said the company has opened more than 10 cases against local protesters with the local police. She added that only two of 12 SLP projects are incomplete, and those two had been held up by approval delays by the local government authorities and what she called “difficulties in our engagements with often deeply divided communities and their structures.”

“We are currently working on closing off the consultation processes on our SLP 3 (2021-2025) projects. We experience bottlenecks in completing these consultations due to various demands by some communities,” she said.

In 2016, Anglo American Platinum said its business partner, Atlatsa Resources, had accumulated 4 billion rand ($215 million) in debt, and put the Twickenham mine into care and maintenance. Since then, SCMAC has called for the company to either reopen the mine — and allocate jobs to local community members — or abandon the mine completely and hand the land back to the community.

If convicted, the arrested activists face fines of up to $2,300 or 10 years in prison.

‘I have anger every day’: South African villagers on the mine in their midst

Anna Majavu and Didier Makal contributed to this bulletin.

Banner image: Sylvia Mokwena: her children were injured by an accident at the Hackney Shaft at Anglo American’s platinum mine near her home in Modimolle, Limpopo, South Africa. Image by Magnificent Mndebele via New Frame (CC BY-SA-4.0)

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This story first appeared on Mongabay

South Africa Today – Environment

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