On April 16th and 17th, the Benchmarks Foundation and SOMO organised a meeting in Polokwane, South Africa, where communities around the large platinum mines of Anglo Platinum and others formulated their common demand; “free, prior and informed consent in a fair process and sharing benefits where there is agreement”.
The meeting brought together a number of representatives of communities who have felt the effects of nearby mining operations. A number of communities have been forced to relocate to nearby villages, where they no longer have access to land for their cattle, are denied basic services, and are provided with infrastructure and houses that suffer from erosion. Other communities are faced with large ventilators in the middle of their villages, which generate constant loud noises and emit foul reeking air. The general feeling expressed is that the communities have not have had any say in or benefited from the mining of platinum, which generates billions of euros in profit.
In the meeting the communities called out that they have the right to:
- Decide beforehand whether or not mining operations should take place on their lands;
- Be given ample time to consult, without unreasonable time pressures or divisive strategies by the mining company;
- Be given adequate information about the potential impacts of mining on their lands;
- When giving its consent for future mining operations, negotiate benefits and compensation schemes in a fair and transparent manner.
Free prior and informed consent is a basic right for communities and indigenous people around mining operations, and has its place in all relevant international agreements and guidelines. The community representatives made clear that they feel Anglo Platinum and other South African mining companies did not seek their free prior and informed consent in the true sense of the word. They where seeking dialogue only after mining operations already commenced, used divisive tactics around the community representation through Section 21 companies and suspicions of bribery were mentioned as some of the shortcomings in the process.
A lot of these issues have been brought towards the mining companies and the broader media by various national and international NGO’s, such as the Benchmarks Foundation, makeITfair and Action Aid. More recently, the South African Human Rights commission also concluded its investigation with the recommendation that companies should move beyond compliance based approaches when seeking free prior and informed consent.
makeITfair calls on end using industries such as the electronics and the car manufacturing industries to implement the concept of free prior and informed consent in the sourcing of the metals used in their products. Concretely, the campaign calls on these industries to use their buying power to support local communities around the platinum mines in South Africa and their call for free prior and informed consent and work with other companies in their supply chain, such as the manufacturing companies and the mining companies, to make sure it is implemented.