Seminar on Mineral Resource Governance

by Iswamo Kapalu

On the 18th to the 21st of April, the Jesuit Institute of South Africa attended a seminar on mineral resource governance hosted by the Jesuit Africa Social Centres Network (JASCNET) in Nairobi, Kenya. The event presented an opportunity to hear about the work being done at several Jesuit Social Centres throughout the continent.

The seminar was an opportunity to discuss both the challenges and opportunities that immerge from working to advance good governance of mineral resources. The departure point for most of these presentations was a recognition that Africa was an extremely resource rich continent and that due to mismanagement, this resource wealth has not adequately translated to the development of mining communities specifically and national economies generally.

Presentations highlighted multiple manifestations of this mismanagement problem as well as the work being done in the participating Social Centres to counteract it. The seminar was also an opportunity to for social centres engaged in research around the resource governance to present the findings of their research.

The presentations were followed by working group discussions, informed by the content of the presentations, and the discussions that followed them. Working groups aimed to highlight the challenges common between centres with a mind to developing an integrated strategy to advance good governance of the continent’s resource wealth.

Notable in the presentations was the following:

  • The role of mineral resources in conflict by CERAP (Ivory Coast). This presentation explored the relationship of resource wealth in a broad conception of conflict not limited only to war. This presentation explored not only how resources trigger conflict but also how conflicts impact natural resources like arable land.

Of local importance in this presentation was the role that the unfair distribution of resource wealth played in mineral resource conflicts. This issue was particularly interesting because South Africa has for many years experienced social conflict because of unfair distribution of natural resources. Most importantly, it was interesting to see the question of conflict and unfair distribution as one about minority monopolization without the South African racial context. This recast the problem of concentrated ownership as a structural economic problem irrespective of who the minority is.

  • Father Charles Chilufya SJ presented 3 papers: On the unmet promise of mining-led development in Zambia; on working conditions, worker’s rights and sustainable business practices in Zambia; and on reforming the corporate social responsibility in extractive industries.

Together these paper’s presented an overview of the mining industry in Zambia.

  • Sister Catharine Nsiami presented her research findings on the attitude of mining companies and communities to environmental responsibility in the DRC. This research was done in light of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si and emphasised the role of dialogue between stakeholders in solving environmental problems.
  • There were presentations on the challenges facing artisanal miners and ways to capacitate them with both technical skills and technology from CARF in the DRC. In a local context, these projects threw into question the efficacy of outlawing rather than regulating and capacitating artisanal mining in South Africa.
  • CEPAS in the DRC presented on their experience in monitoring and renegotiating mining contracts as well as the role of civil society in shaping mining regulations. This presentation also had implications for the local context with South Africa recently changing its mining regulatory framework. Some work needs to be done in broadening debate on the issue, especially while the regulations are malleable.

The presentations were usually followed by dialogue which tended to take on a whole life of its own. Out of the dialogue, both between presentations and the working groups, the following factors were identified as barriers to good governance:

  • Corruption
  • Weak legal frameworks, poor governance institutions and poor enforcement where regulatory frameworks were present
  • Neo-liberalism and international economic and political pressure to privatise extractive industries
  • Ignorance in communities regarding their rights and value of solidarity
  • And the enclave nature and benefit of mining projects

In order to address these challenges, it was noted that there would need to be regional and continental efforts to: deepen research sharing capacity, strengthen legal capacity and mobilize communities – particularly mining communities – with an emphasis on rights education. All this will have to be coupled with efforts to create a stable, corruption-free political environment.

It is hoped that the work done at this seminar and the work done within this group of Social Centres will help liberate the resource wealth of the continent – for the common good of Africans today and tomorrow.

Mr Iswamo Kapalu
LL.B. (Wits)

Iswamo Kapalu is a young South African of Zambian origin. He holds an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand and currently works as a researcher, writer and social justice advocate at the Jesuit Institute.
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