Case Studies: Is Mining really ‘on top’ in Africa?

These case studies, shared by members of African civil society and their allies, offer an insight into the many grave social and ecological issues caused by large-scale mining in Africa and the failure of companies to adequately address these. In terms of reflecting the full scale of these problems in Africa, this collection is far from exhaustive.



Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI), South Africa

Alternative Mining

Established as an antidote to South Africa’s annual corporate Mining Indaba, in 2015 the AMI brought together communities and civil society members who reported the rising anger of communities and workers towards the mining industry and called for radical change.


The Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI), 2015, provided a platform for experts, communities and members of pan-African civil society to gather and share their experiences of mining in their home nations. Taking place against ‘a backdrop of rising anger from labour and communities’ precipitated by myriad mining injustices, the conference fundamentally acknowledged that the majority of Africa’s people do not benefit from the exploitation of the continent’s minerals and metals.


Meschak Mbangula from the South African Chapter of the Mining Affected Communities Unit in Action (MACAU) told the conference that people in mining communities died everyday from ill health, pollution of water and air and from state sponsored terrorism. “Our governments are not serving our interests. When we try and protest against the injustices of the mining companies, the police are sent to arrest and kill us,’’ he said.


Felix Ngosi from the Zambian Chapter of AMI described how Zambian communities are suffering from unfair compensation; environmental degradation; taxation structures that should benefit the country rather than corporations and illicit financial flows.


Delegates of the conference called for communities’ right to Free Prior and Informed Consent to be guaranteed and to be extended, allowing them to say no to mining outright; for an end to land grabbing by the extractive industries; compulsory adherence to all environmental and human rights standards; empowerment of women in mining struggles; an end to tax evasion, avoidance and other illicit financial flows that reduce Africa’s ability to meet poverty and development challenges; criminal prosecution of mine managers and/or directors for environmental destruction and negligence with regards to community and worker health.


The conference has produced a statement outlining in greater detail why delegates from communities and civil society are convinced that the capitalist system, in which mining sits, “puts profits above people and fails to sustain harmonious relations within society”.


Source: Alternative Mining Indaba

 L Fletcher

Photo: Liz Fletcher 

Violence at Xolobeni, South Africa

Communities resisting MRC Ltd.’s mineral sands mining on South Africa’s Wild Coast have been subjected to physical attacks and intimidation by persons believed to be beneficiaries of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility funds.


The Amadiba community are resisting MRC Ltd.’s planned Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project that plans to mine titanium from the sand dunes of South Africa’s pristine Pondoland Wild Coast. As a result the community have suffered intimidation and physical violence perpetrated by agents of the company.


Alleged beneficiaries of a R12-million loan from MRC- given to MRC’s empowerment partner Blue Bantry Investments to supposedly ‘bridge the cultural divide’ between the company and local residents ‘for the immediate benefit of the Amadiba community’- are being investigated for the violent assault of a community member, perpetrated on May 3, 2015, and intimidation of the community.


Grahamstown High Court heard how an elderly woman was beaten and a mother forced to flee her home with two month-old children, by a group connected with this controversial mining application.


Umgungundlovu Headwoman Duduzile Baleni related that “Ms Msaidilose Ndovela — a 61-year-old pensioner — fell into a ditch as she tried to run for her safety. Whilst on her knees, Mr Zamokwakhe ‘Bashin’ Qunya, struck her with a knobkierie,

stamped on her, and hacked her with a bush knife. An associate of his, Mr Khahlaza Chiya, joined in the assault. As she lay immobile on the ground, her

assailants joked about having killed her. She was later transported to hospital by

ambulance for treatment of her injuries.”


News sources investigating the case have reported that the loan given by the company is in fact a ‘divisive interference’ designed to uproot the community and ‘fund the conflict’ around the mineral sands to ensure MRC’s successful application.


Source: Rand Daily Mail

 United Fronts


Photo: United Fronts

Gold Rush Resistance in the Upper West, Ghana

A gold rush involving multinationals and illegal miners in Ghana’s Upper West Region threatens the agricultural and fishing livelihoods of local communities who have withheld their consent and are saying ‘Yes to Life, no to Mining’.

In Ghana’s arid Upper West region local peoples rely on fertile land and water from the Black Volta River to support their agricultural and fishing livelihoods. Both are now threatened by mining.

In 2000, without consulting local communities or NGOs, the Ghanaian Government identified the Upper West as an area of ‘high mining potential’, especially for gold, and began granting mineral concessions in the region. Large multinational mining corporations soon moved in. Hot on their heels were illegal ‘artisanal’ miners, known as galamsays who, motivated by poverty and desperation, gathered to feed off the scraps.

Illegal Gold Mine and Polluted Water

Illegal goldmine and polluted water

To date 28 mining concessions, accounting for 31% of the Upper West region, have been granted in Nawdowli, Lawra and Jirapa districts. Illegal mining is rife and the consequences of this 21st century gold rush have been catastrophic, but they are not going unchallenged.

Azumah Resources was one of those companies given permission to prospect for Gold in the Upper West region. Despite this, Azumah’s Wa gold project has been stalled for over a decade by concerted opposition from local communities, the Upper West House of Chiefs and the Upper West Coalition on Mining, Food, Water and Sacred Natural Sites.

In the meantime, galamsays have moved into several community areas and begun extracting gold illegally. Using armed guards to protect their operations, the galamsays’ activities have polluted local water sources with cyanide and mercury and scarred the land with pits, jeopardising people’s agricultural livelihoods and threatening the health of sacred groves.

A growing number of citizens, communities and traditional authorities are opposing mining in the region, refusing to be ignored. They continue to assert that they wish to protect their livelihoods, rather than pursue mining.

Raphael Ali of the Upper West Coalition had this to say:

“We can eat the food we grow here and the fish we catch, but we cannot eat gold. This is why we are saying Yes to Life, No to Mining.”


Source: Yes to Life, No to Mining & CIKOD


Coal Mines Displace Communities, Threaten Protected Wilderness, South Africa

The people of Fuleni are rallying to safeguard Africa’s oldest protected wilderness, rhinos, local livelihoods, homes and health from a new coal mine to be situated just 40 metres from the park’s boundary.


The indigenous people of Fuleni, the ancestral land of the Zulu Peoples in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, are experiencing an unprecedented drought. Two coal companies and their enormous appetites for water are primarily being blamed.

One, Johannesburg-based Petmin, has operated its Somkhele mine since 2007 just 17km from the border of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Wilderness, Africa’s oldest formal park, the meeting point of the black and white iMfoloi rivers and a haven for white rhino.

Since the company’s arrival, Petmin has shown a worrying disregard for local communities and ecosystems. In violation of sacred traditional protocol, the company dug up the graves and remains of ancestors to get at the coal.

Hundreds of people have been forced to leave their lands and seen their chiefs and traditional healers compromised, allowing the company’s operations to pollute water, air and land in the area. Despite much of KwaZulu Natal being verdant, the remaining people of Somkhele now receive water once a week from a truck and suffer from respiratory diseases and tuberculosis.

Now, just 20km south of Somkhele and a mere 40 metres from the edge of the park, a new coal mine, Ibutho Coal’s Fuleni Project, is being planned to access a seam of anthracite.

Seeing what has happened to Somkhele, communities who stand to be displaced by this new mine are opposing it. Community activists like Mam Khuluse from Ocilwane are insisting the companies “leave the coal in the hole.”

The latest climate change science supports this rallying cry, indicating that 82% of all coal registered in fossil fuel company reserves must remain unburned if we hope to keep Earth’s average temperature below a ‘safe’ 2C warming above pre-industrial levels


On more than one occasion already, the communities of Fuleni have ousted Ibutho coal representatives from meetings the area. They are supported in their resistance by NGO allies, such as the Global Environment Trust and Mupo Foundation, who see that losses in local livelihoods will further encourage rhino poaching from the park as a source of income.


Source: Save Our iMfolozi Wilderness



Deadly Platinum Mine Strikes, South Africa

The tragic Marikana Mine massacre, and concurrent abuses, were sparked by persistent wage disputes and mistreatment of workers, communities and ecosystems by South African platinum mining companies.


Mining companies often claim that by creating jobs and providing communities with access to these they ‘add value’ in the areas in which they operate. The genuineness of this claim is continually thrown into question worldwide, but nowhere more so than South Africa’s platinum mines in recent years.


Demanding higher, fairer wages, in January 2012 over 17,000 workers embarked on a six-week strike at the Impala Platinum Mine in Rustenburg. This was followed by a strike at Aquarius Platinum. In both of these strikes company security guards killed several workers


On 16th August, 34 unarmed, striking employees of the British owned platinum mining company, Lonmin Plc, were shot dead by the police in the disgraceful Marikana massacre. At least 78 other workers were wounded and suicides and homicides continued in the subsequent year in relation to the massacre.


These obvious human rights and labour-relations travesties were precipitated by a number of factors. Among these are the failure of Lonmin’s CSR and its seeming disregard for social and environmental standards.


  • The level of mineworker income and their fair and equitable treatment is a critical factor in the social and political sustainability of mines. The average pay increases per Lonmin employee dropped between 2009-2012.
  • Even though Lonmin is not a leader in executive pay, it would take the average worker in a Lonmin mine 325 years to earn the company CEO’s remuneration packet.
  • At the time of the mass strikes, Lonmin had not built a single house for employees since 1999. Due to the poor quality of the current housing, the company was having trouble even filling these homes.
  • In 2009 Lonmin abandoned its efforts to measure community perceptions of the mine after surveys showed no improvement between 2004-2008.
  • By its own admission the company has persistently exceeded the legal limits of dust and sulphur dioxide emissions. Unplanned discharges of mine waste into local river systems occur yearly.


The Bench Marks Foundation, which has monitored Lonmin’s environmental, social and economic impacts, reports: “Lonmin is a company intent on extracting minerals at the cost of communities’ health and welfare. Serious social problems are the consequence of its lack of social responsibility.”


Source: Bench Marks Foundation & Patrick Bond


 Marikana mine massacre

Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters


Mass Tax Evasion, Zambia

Ordinary Zambians, many of whom live on less than $1.25-a-day, are losing billions of dollars each year to mining multinationals and officials profiting from tax avoidance, evasion, corruption and a lax tax regime.


A case study by War on Want has revealed that Zambia – one of the economically poorest countries in the world – is hemorrhaging wealth, mainly to the benefit of multinational mining companies, which could otherwise support public services and alleviate poverty.


According to the Zambian Deputy Finance Minister, in 2012 the people of Zambia lost $2billion to tax avoidance and tax evasion by multinationals and the overly generous tax incentives the government provides them with.


Zambia is, on the face of it, extremely wealthy. As the largest producer of copper in Africa, and the seventh largest in the world, Zambia is achieving record production (over 800,000 tonnes) spurred by growth for metals in Asia. There are around 20 copper mining companies operating in the country, the largest including mining multinationals Glencore and Acacia Mining, both listed on the London Stock Exchange, British-Indian company Vedanta and Canadian company First Quantum, who currently benefit from Zambia’s lenient tax administration.


And yet, the extraction of the nation’s mineral resources is failing to translate into wealth and poverty alleviation for Zambia’s people. Despite its mining boom, 74 per cent of Zambians live on less than $1.25 a day and 6 million people – 43 per cent of the population – are undernourished.


At present Zambia and its people are being drained of wealth and resources by the ability of multinational companies to avoid paying tax, sometimes facilitated by the global structure of tax havens.


The $2 billion Zambia is estimated to be losing annually is roughly equivalent to twice the Zambian Government’s combined spending on health and education ($1.69 billion). Recovering tax revenues through equitable tax policies could play a huge role in converting Zambia’s sustained economic growth – which has thus far been accompanied by growing inequality and poor public services – into providing good public services and combating inequality.


Source: War on Want




Corporate Social Investment (CSI) and Greenwashing, South Africa

Corporate Social Investment is all to often just another form of greenwashing employed to paper over the social and ecological damage caused by mining operations, according to Juliana Thornton, a former CSI worker.

Giacomo Cardelli

Cartoon: Giacomo Cardelli

Juliana Thornton, a former employee of a South African corporate social investment fund working with mining companies in South Africa, has fundamentally questioned the logic, intentions and benefits of CSI in Africa. Her testimony reads as follows:


“CSI in South Africa, and in much of Africa, is about solving problems with the one hand that the corporate has created with the other, while garnering accolades for “development”, “charity” and “generosity” along the way.


Especially in Africa, CSI is simply a way for companies to escape responsibility. It allows them, at their own discretion, to put in place ‘solutions’ to the very problems they themselves created in the first place. Problems which, under a stronger regulatory regime, they would be required to pay for.


I visited a particular mine with CSI personnel from the company, to survey a ‘CSI success’: mobile health vans to test for HIV. A sinister truth was revealed: if this mine was not in this community it is likely that the prevalence of HIV would not be as high as it was. The region in question is incredibly sparsely populated with historically low HIV prevalence; except in mining towns. The mine brought this particular disease to the people, and then proceeded to garner accolades in delivering testing and treatment for a problem it had caused.


The great argument used by corporates is that mining creates jobs and grows the economy by increasing Gross Domestic Product (GDP). These measures are deeply convenient for mining companies, as GDP and the monetary economy do not measure or value the jobs and livelihoods in the informal sector lost to mining. Small scale farming and livestock raising are not captured in calculations of GDP and so these communities are defined in the capitalist setting as worthless, poor, utterly without value until the mine comes.


Mining creates dependent, sick, poor communities and CSI is used as the excuse to argue this away. The mines build schools, which rightfully should be the preserve of government and go unstaffed and un-stocked as a result. They set up clinics to treat diseases (such as TB, silicosis and HIV) which may not have existed, or been as severe in the community if the mine itself did not exist.”


Source: Juliana Thornton


Resettled Communities at Risk, Sierra Leone

Before it collapsed, African Minerals Ltd resettled whole villages, making them dependent on food and water provided by the company as compensation for loss of livelihoods. Now the company is bankrupt and these villagers face further disaster.

Headed by the controversial investor Frank Timis, who the Toronto Stock Exchange deems ‘unsuitable’ to be a director, African Minerals Ltd. was, until recently, a significant producer of iron ore in war-torn Sierra Leone.

In March 2015 African Minerals collapsed into bankruptcy, plunging communities resettled by the mine into turmoil and leaving behind a trail of recrimination and multi-million dollar losses for investors from China to London.

Numerous reasons have been cited for London-based African Minerals’ collapse, including the downward trend of iron ore prices, Sierra Leone’s Ebola crisis and mismanagement by Timis. Whatever the true reason, investors are up in arms and the incident has raised serious questions about the role of U.K. market regulators, who have so far been silent on the matter.

Chinese Shandong Iron & Steel Group has now taken control of the mine in question, but it is unclear if the company will uphold vital agreements made between African Minerals and resettled communities.

In the process of building the mine, African Minerals relocated villages that as a result became unable to provide for their own livelihoods. By way of compensation, the company agreed to provide water trucks and bags of rice to resettled communities.

The unsustainable dependency inherent in that agreement is now laid bare. If the Shandong Group does not agree to uphold this agreement, resettled communities are at risk of losing access to water and food as a result.

In a recent press release SOMO Netherlands declared that “should the provision of food and water be ceased, the effects for this vulnerable group could be devastating”.


Source: Mines and Communities & SOMO Netherlands



CSR failures at Kumba Iron Ore Limited, South Africa

Despite receiving numerous awards for best practice, investigations into Anglo American’s Kuma Iron Ore Ltd have revealed the persistence of apartheid-like race and class structures, poor pay and militarisation in the mining area.

Anglo America

Photo: Anglo American

The Bench Marks Foundation have found that nepotism and racial apartheid arrangements persist in the work and living spaces provided by Anglo American’s Kumba Iron Ore Ltd, South Africa. This is despite the company receiving numerous awards for best practice and being used as a benchmark for industry.


A report ‘Floating or sinking’ Social Licence to Operate (SLO): Kumba Iron Ore Limited’, released in June 2015 by the Bench Marks Foundation, found significant gaps between the company’s claims regarding how mining operations are driving social transformation, and realities on the ground.


John Capel, Executive Director for the Bench Marks Foundation, reports that “community members revealed that they felt the mine, and associated mining town of Kathu, reflect the old apartheid class and race structures. Workers complain that the mine’s security company has taken over the functions of the South African Police

Services and harass black workers if they are found in the ‘white’ residential areas.”


Community members also reported increased militarisation of mining company security in the area who have allegedly assaulted community members, been involved in police-style raids and conducted stop-and-search operations against black workers in Kathu.


Anglo American has resisted demands by workers for a decent living wage of R12,500 in 2012. It relies heavily on contract workers, many of whom do not come from the local community. Poverty and unemployment are high in the areas adjacent to the mines despite the fact that there are high education levels among the youth.


As a result of these findings the Bench Marks Foundation is questioning the efficacy of Kumba’s anti-racism and anti-sexism programmes, the criteria and processes involved in selecting companies for ‘best practice’ awards and the company’s Social License to Operate in the region.


Source: Bench Marks Foundation




Oil devastation in the Niger Delta, Nigeria

Due to four decades of oil extraction, Nigeria has been transformed from major agricultural producer to oil dependent. Though this case does not involve hard-rock mining, it is a potent reminder that the costs of the extractive industries for communities and farmers could scarcely be higher.

The vast Niger Delta was once a pristine network of waterways and fertile land that provided livelihoods and cultural and spiritual sustenance to the Ogoni peoples.


Today, thanks to an oil boom that began in the 1970s and has continued since, the delta has been likened to hell on Earth. Water and soil pollution from oil spillages, pipeline explosions and toxic waste dumping, air pollution from gas flaring, ecosystem destruction from dredging, as well as flooding, erosion and land degradation have all but destroyed the regions fertile farmlands and fishing systems.

Niger Delta-380x285

In 2011 the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Report on their assessment of the environment of Ogoniland found that, in over 40 locations tested, soil is polluted with hydrocarbons up to a depth of 5 metres. UNEP also reported that the levels of benzene (a known carcinogen) in approximately 90 of the locations are more than 900 times above accepted World Health Organisation standards.


The Niger Delta’s story in many ways reflects a broader trend in Nigeria’s relationship with the extractive industries. In the 1960s, Nigeria was feted as one of the world’s most promising agricultural nations. Then, export crops formed 65-75% of the nation’s foreign earnings and domestic production fed 90% of the population.


In 2000, after just thirty years of oil production and pollution, only 5% of Nigeria’s foreign earnings were made from agriculture. In 2013 the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) admitted that instead of benefiting the country, oil was in fact killing the economy and the country’s agriculture sector in particular.


Margaret Amos, a farmer in Imiringi, states “When Shell oil came and situated their facilities here and invaded us, our crop yields started depreciating. As a young girl, our crops – cocoyam, cassava, plantain, and more – grew more luxuriantly. When we harvested them, we got bountiful yields. But all that now is history. What we get these days could be likened to[a] skeleton of those days.”


The struggle to stop oil devastation continues. Nnimmo Bassey, founder of Oil Watch and the Home of Mother Earth Foundation, estimates that “it will take between 300-500 billion dollars and almost a lifetime to restore Ogoniland and the Niger Delta.”


Source: Nnimmo Bassey & The Gaia Foundation

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