Ongoing exclusion of mining communities during coronavirus pandemic
Civil society is still concerned over the exclusion of mining affected communities from deliberations and lack of measures to protect them from the coronavirus
On 14 April 2020, eleven civil society and community-based organisations published an open letter to the President and Minister of Mineral Resources expressing concern regarding the broad ambit of mines being allowed to stay open, and demanding targeted measures to protect mining affected communities from Covid-19 and regular consultation with communities together with organised labour.
To date there has been no acknowledgment of the letter, though some of the suggestions appeared to have been taken on board on 16 April, when the Minister announced the amended National Disaster Act Regulations. In particular, the important conditions for mines re-opening pertained to rigorous screening and testing for returning employees, quarantine facilities, the submission of testing data and transport arrangements for both national and international employees. In addition, employers and organised labour were required to engage on a regular basis.
We further note a directive sent by the Department to mining companies on 23 April which provided some additional detail such as the requirement that mining companies must submit a start-up procedure developed in consultation with labour unions to the Department.
Key concerns raised in the initial open letter of 14 April have still not been addressed and the lack of engagement with communities remains. The specific issues that remain unaddressed include:
- No formalised consultation and information-sharing with mining affected communities and community networks, nor requirements to do so in the amendments to the Regulations;
- No measures specifically targeted at the prevention and management of Covid-19 amongst mining affected communities;
- No measures to address the particular health, hygiene and basic service challenges facing mining affected communities;
- Last, as is the subject of the MACUA amicus curiae intervention in the urgent AMCU application, the complete lack of inclusion of mining communities in the formulation of the measures for re-opening mines in the Amended Disaster Management Regulations.
In response to the developments of the past two weeks we have developed our demands in addition to the existing demands that have not been addressed.
The first set of demands relates to consultation of communities in managing the crisis. These are:
- Include social movements, women’s organisations, local community organisation, and NGO structures of mining affected community networks (such as MACUA, WAMUA and MECJON-SA) amongst the stakeholders that the Minister periodically consults with on the crisis;
- Include community representatives on the Mine Health and Safety Council;
- Provide lists of mines remaining open to trade unions, mining affected community networks and community-based organisations;
- The Department and companies to regularly communicate through channels accessible to communities (including community radio stations).
Second, in line with MACUA amicus curiae intervention, to:
- Consult mining communities directly and develop binding and detailed standards for mining company’s measures to prevent and manage COVID-19 under the Mine Health and Safety Act.
- Mass screening and testing available to mining affected communities and workers;
- Companies should provide private transportation to returning workers from outside the community to minimise contact;
- A rollout of sanitiser and basic protective equipment (e.g. masks and gloves) in mining affected communities;
- Support by the department and mining companies for community organisations’ food and PPE aid efforts;
- Immediate supply of water to communities not currently enjoying access and an expedited plan for ensuring piped potable water in all mining affected communities;
- A plan in consultation with the Department of Health and mining affected communities to increase capacities of local clinics to respond in the event of mass infections;
- Finally, rigorous monitoring by the Department of the regulations and abovementioned demands in conjunction with affected mine community representatives.
The third set of demands relates to specific measures to protect communities and is directed at the Department in collaboration with Mining Companies, these include:
We await your response and look forward to engaging on urgent measures to safeguard the health of mining affected communities.
- Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA)
- Women Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA)
- Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of South Africa (MEJCON-SA)
- Sekhukhune Combined Mine Affected Communities (SCMAC)
- Waterberg Environmental Justice Forum (WEJF)
- ActionAid South Africa
- Bench Marks Foundation
- Land and Accountability Research Centre (LARC)
- Amnesty International South Africa
- Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS)
- Centre for Environmental Rights (CER)
- Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR)