|ARTICLE: "Mining Companies are Not interested in Africa's Development"|
|Written by Ray Bush/Yao Graham|
|Friday, 10 December 2010 17:14|
Ray Bush and Yao Graham
Mining companies are not interested in Africa's development
Despite the rhetoric, they have violated human rights and left communities dispossessed, say Ray Bush and Yao Graham
Mark Curtis is correct to remind people in the west of their responsibility to resist the EU's plans for importing raw materials (The newest resource grab, 15 November).
As he notes, the EU has "launched a new strategy to address its dependence on imports of 'strategically important raw materials'". Access to hi-tech metals like cobalt, but also wood, hides and skins, has been labelled as "critical to the EU's industrial competitiveness", and Brussels now wants to stop developing countries from "restricting exports" of these materials. This threatens the freedom of developing countries to industrialise based on adding value to their primary commodities, and thereby grow out of poverty and aid dependence. This issue is particularly important for African countries whose long-standing dependence on the export of primary commodities is a key factor in low living standards.
Our research on mining companies in Africa highlights two important areas that Europeans need to understand. The first is that – despite rhetoric about corporate social responsibility – international mining companies, which continue to extract high profits from Africa, are not interested in supporting policies that will transform the continent's development. With the support of their home governments, including the UK, they have pressured African governments to introduce policies that have resulted in dispossession of communities, environmental degradation and human rights violations, while yielding woeful revenues for national treasuries.
This asymmetry of power, between mining companies on the one hand and African states and communities on the other, is one of the many issues obscured by the heavy focus on aid and governance in the debates about Africa. The main concerns of African communities affected by mining are the dispossession of their lands, repressive policing in support of mining companies that keep farmers from their fields, and the unfulfilled promises of employment and improved lives from mining. Across Africa, mining has failed to deliver economic transformation.
Two years ago the African Union adopted the African Mining Vision, a strategy for moving Africa away from being a source of unprocessed minerals towards the production of value-added goods from its mineral resources. The vision is the product of the grim lessons Africans have learned – prioritising the interests of foreign mining companies has not led to development.
It promotes the need for integrated and regional African mineral development. It may be less clear on the importance of a social movement to hold governments and corporations to account but it is certainly a more development-centred strategy than that offered by the EU, and it offers more equitable economic relations with the rest of the world. This African-generated initiative should set the benchmark for the future.
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- National Stakeholders' Consultation on EPAs
- Public Forum on Mining Reforms and Contracts Renegotiation
- Statement -- 4th Alternative Mining Indaba