Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries have been urged to prevent an environmental disaster for the region by creating uniform mining codes and legislation to regulate mining and extractive industries.
That would make it mandatory for mining companies to incorporate social responsibility to the communities they operate.
David Van Wyk, research expert with Bench Mark Foundation, said uniform legislation would ensure that countries with weak legislation are not turned into pollution dumps.
It has generally been established, according to Van Wyk, that said “favourable climate” usually included weak government, weak civil society and often a feeble labour movement.
It was against that same background that at a 2006 Mining Investment Conference held in Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi were the preferred investment destination because these countries had a vibrant mining sector and a liberal mining legislation.
Van Wyk intimated that South Africa on the other hand, was increasingly loosing the favour of the Mining Companies because of its advanced and therefore stricter legislation regarding environment, labour and mining rights.
“It is for this reason that whilst De Beers has a 50/50 investment arrangement with Botswana, they are not keen to have a similar shareholding arrangement in its South African investments despite demands in that regard,” said Van Wyk.
Consequently, according to Van Wyk, there is a growing danger of SADC’s huge mineral resources being depleted, while its population remain in dire poverty.
In comparison to total world production, it has been reported that SADC contributes about 72 percent of platinum group metals (PGM), 55 percent of diamonds, 46 percent of vanadium, and 40 percent of chronicle. The region also produces 26 percent gold, 15 percent of manganese and 8 percent of copper.
Yet despite these vast resources most countries in the region have the worst poverty gap.
Moreover findings of a study conducted by Bench Mark Foundation reveal that communities in close proximity to mines are most affected than the rest of other population groups.
“In this respect Botswana mines are not an exception, since only employees have access to ARV from Mine Hospitals,” said one Union Official who preferred anonymity.
Thus, Van Wyk implored journalists to inform themselves on the different models of corporate social responsibility practised in the developed world so that they can see how to relate them to the context of their respective countries.
In this regard, the media can claim success in informing the public and shaping policy, only when they would have spurred companies and Government into agreeing on CSR model that benefits broader sections of their communities.
For his part, Claude Kabemba, Director of SARW, posited that it would be a serious weakness on the part of the media to sit on the sidelines with regard to the management and use of the proceeds of the extractive industries.
“Without clear policies and regulating the involvement of civil servants and political leaders in business, the political landscape will always be tilted in favour of the multinationals that care less about the future of the communities they operate in,” concluded Van Wyk. ┬á┬á
Botswana journalists recently attended training workshop organised by Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) in Ndola, Zambia.