By Claude Kabemba | OSISA
To His Excellency the Governor of the Province,
Congolese civil society working in the natural resources sector and representatives from government, mining companies and communities came together at the first Alternative Mining Indaba, held in Kolwezi in the Lualaba Province, DRC, from 23 to 24 May 2017. They discussed the impact of mining activities on the local economies and communities. The Lualaba Province holds the majority of known mineral deposits in the DRC (copper and cobalt) and 80% of multinational mining companies are present in the Province.
After two days of discussions, participants made a sad observation: The Congolese people in general, and local communities in particular, do not benefit from the exploitation of their mineral resources. Rather than being a blessing and a source of development, minerals instead contribute to the population’s destitution.
A number of causes for this situation were identified during the discussions. The most significant causes include weak state institutions, corruption, bad governance, exclusion of communities in decision-making, mining companies not complying with the law, the government not enforcing the law, and export of raw materials without added value. There are numerous consequences: a mining industry, which limits development, an informal artisanal mining industry that pushes women and children into precarious activities for survival, damage to the environment and the recurrence of chronic illnesses. This clearly shows that the Congolese people are not benefitting from the minerals.
For the host province of the AMI, the province of Lualaba, the participants ask that the Provincial Government:
Intervenes urgently to put an end to informal, unregulated artisanal mining;
Prohibits children and pregnant women from being allowed into mining quarries;
Asks all those in possession of warehouses where they stock cobalt and copper from artisanal mining along the main Kolwezi road, to build decent warehouses with acceptable standards, and durable construction materials.
Minerals are a depleting resource and at the current rate, there is a risk that one day the mineral deposits will be depleted without any development for the Congolese people and future generations. The DRC government must take its responsibility and put in place development plans and public policies, which must guide companies’ actions to ensure that mining activities no longer take place in isolation, but become a stimulant and driving force for the rest of the economy.
The participants raised the issue of how mining companies and affected local communities coexist. Relations between the two groups are not good. Mining companies’ activities have a negative impact on the lives of the various population groups, especially mining communities. The State has been accused of protecting mining companies to the detriment of its own people.
In conclusion, the participants at the first Alternative Mining Indaba call on the Congolese Government to put mechanisms in place for the appropriation of minerals and set up a management system that ensures integrated and sustained development.
Done at Kolwezi, on 25 May, 2017