Every year, the movers and shakers of the world's mining industry meet in Cape Town to talk, network and discuss how best to maximize profits from extracting Africa's natural resources. Notably absent from that meeting are the communities directly impacted by the industry and the civil society organizations acting as government/business watchdogs.
Instead, they gather concurrently at the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI) across town. At least partly due to the $1,500 per person ticket for the Mining Indaba, I chose to attend the free AMI.
On the last day of the conference, the AMI delegates marched across the Cape Town city center to deliver a declaration of demands (read it here: http://altminingindaba.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017-AMI-Declaration-.pdf) to the industry's event. The protest actually made it all the way to the Cape Town International Convention Centre this year and handed over the declaration to Tom Butler, CEO of the International Council on Mining & Metals, and several other industry representatives.
The atmosphere was electric. Singing, dancing, protest selfies. It felt like the AMI had received a guarantee that industry would solve the environmental, health, social and economic consequences often associated with mining instead of merely guaranteeing to talk about them. Still, with the massive gap that exists between the opposing sides of extractives in this continent, the AMI delegates took it as a win.
The issues arising from mining were startlingly similar across the continent. Mining houses or fossil fuel companies based in Canada, Australia, Europe or the U.S. come to an African nation in desperate need of development and foreign investment. Concessions are made, tax cuts are granted, promises are made and exploration/prospecting begins. One after another, these communities took the mic and described finding out about these companies after they were already permitted and operational.
Fueled in large part by widespread poverty, very few people throughout the conference said mining should be banned outright in their home countries. There was significant talk about moving more of the value chain to Africa to keep profits here, and there was also the oft-repeated statement that mining should go away and come back as a mutually beneficial exercise.
The perceived dependence on the extraction industry was interesting, though, especially in a conference where the participants (mostly African) and translators conversed with the group in English, French or Portuguese.
There is a story coming soon, so I will stop there and let you read further when it is published. As always, thanks for checking in.