Africa-UK Civil Society Letter to the Mining on Top Africa: London Summit

IMG_1514 - CopyPhotograph: The Gaia Foundation

Centamin won the bidding to expand its gold mining operations in Egypt. Because even though there may be 76,000 tonnes of gold hoarded in bank vaults- enough to meet global demand for 186 years- you can’t have too much gold, right? 

June, 25th 2015 members of The Gaia Foundation held an action in central London to challenge the Mining On Top Africa: London Summit.
They managed to get into the conference cocktail reception somehow and hand the letter and case studies in to a senior member of SNL Metals and Mining- the conference’s main organiser (he wasn’t very happy about it!).
After that they set up the protest outside the conference. In this action they satirised the Summit by holding a mock auction to ‘carve-up’ Africa, selling it to the highest corporate bidders from companies listed on the London Stock Exchange- Glencore, Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Centamin. Fake representatives of those companies gave speeches outlining the damage they are causing all across Africa.
The text of the letter:

Delegates and Organisers of the Mining on Top Africa: London Summit,

We, members of African and UK civil society and communities, are aggrieved that the Mining on Top Africa: London Summit lacks meaningful representation from African civil society and communities, and ignores the negative impacts of mining in Africa.

Our organisations are rooted in and work alongside numerous communities across the African continent who endure the worst impacts of large-scale mining, without enjoying any of the purported benefits.

Many of these communities are facing displacement, poverty, illness, massive pollution, loss of fertile agricultural and ancestral land, destruction of livelihoods and culture due to the introduction of large-scale mining. Seeing little-to-no benefit from Africa’s mining boom, a growing number are saying Yes to Life, No to Mining, protecting sustainable, regenerative livelihoods and affirming their basic human right to define their own development.

As a gathering supposedly hosted to ‘drive economic and social development in Africa’, it would seem imperative for the Mining on Top Africa: London Summit to create spaces to hear the voices of these African communities and civil society members.

Yet it is precisely these groups- and those working in solidarity with them – that are being excluded from discussions. In their absence the Summit appears to be little more than a modern-day carve-up of Africa, with the imperial powers of old now replaced by massive multinationals engaging in similar forms of colonial exploitation that are destroying Africa.

In particular, we note that the only official civil society speaker at the Summit appears to be talking from a Northern development NGO, and a business-oriented perspective on companies’ social license to operate. This is revealing, as many of our communities are realising that Corporate Social Investment and Responsibility are purely ways to justify the companies’ social licence and bolster their image. We are sure the attendees from extractive industry companies may be happy to hear this, but it is less clear how such presentations will provide meaningful information on the real concerns of local communities and how they see their development unfolding.

To ensure that the concerns of African communities, and the many examples of serious mining abuses committed against them, do not go unheard, at the end of this letter (click here to read) we include cases that partners have asked us to highlight. They reveal the following trends plaguing mining in Africa:

  • Ecosystem destruction and the persistent pollution of air, water and land with grave health impacts for human communities and many other species.
  • Human rights abuses including killings and physical abuse that often disproportionately affect women.
  • Evictions and the forcible relocation of communities.
  • The failure of Corporate Social Responsibility and Investment programmes.
  • The loss of billions of dollars of mining profits from African economies as a result of illicit financial flows, corruption and corporate malfeasance.
  • The threat further investment in fossil fuel extraction, and thus climate change, poses to future generations.

That the Mining on Top Africa Summit excludes the voices of the peoples directly affected by trauma and loss as a result of the extractive industries strips the event of all legitimacy and any association with development. This is all the more unforgivable for the government agencies involved, such as the UK’s DfID, who are meant to be promoting inclusive development.

Sadly, it is fitting that this carve-up should take place in London, with the active encouragement of the British Government.

London is the leading global centre for mining finance, with billions of pounds of investment money flowing through it into destructive mining projects around the world. The UK Government actively encourages such destructive mining through its diplomatic support for London-listed mining companies, its shocking failure to exercise adequate regulatory oversight and its involvement in gatherings such as this one.

Acknowledging our connection through our common humanity, we as members of African and UK civil society demand that the mining industry hears and respects the wishes of communities who reject the destruction mining brings. We demand that the UK ends its promotion of and support for mining destruction.

In solidarity with communities in Africa devastated by destructive mining, and those resisting fresh waves of exploitation, we call for an end to the corporate carve-up of Africa.

Read more here