A mine shaft in Brits, North West.   Picture: THULANO MBELE
A mine shaft in Brits, North West. Picture: THULANO MBELE

Laws‚ regulations and policies on mining should be developed in a manner that recognises communities as a central role-player.

This is one of the recommendations made by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies in its report on alternative models for mineral-based social benefits.

The centre said the social and labour plan (SLP) system to benefit mining communities was flawed and did not promote meaningful social and economic advancement of communities. According to the centre, its previous two reports on the SLP system uncovered flaws both in how the system was designed and in how it was implemented in practice.

In the latest report‚ the centre set out possible alternative models for a more transparent and democratic system that would position communities as central stakeholders, saying communities were still without tangible and meaningful benefits.

The centre noted that the mining law regime was developed through negotiations involving government‚ mining companies and organised labour. "Communities‚ who‚ together with workers‚ are the most directly affected by the negative impacts of mining‚ have not been included as a distinct interest group."

The centre said that since the passing of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) in 2002‚ mine-affected communities were increasingly organised as a distinct sector. "However‚ this growth in organisation has not been translated into communities being included meaningfully in legislation and policy-making."

It said during the lengthy process of amending the MPRDA that started in 2012 and was still ongoing‚ several communities had made written submissions on the Act. "These submissions have‚ however‚ not impacted on the drafts of the bills before Parliament."

The centre said given that SLPs were born of the MPRDA‚ the exclusion of the community from the development of the Act would severely limit the extent to which SLPs could be a meaningful avenue for community development, and any future legislative process aimed at material changes to the MPRDA and the Mining Charter needed to be tailored towards maximising community participation.

"First ... there should be large-scale and meaningful deliberations with community members aimed at eliciting what should be in mining legislation." At these deliberations‚ communities should be able to nominate technical specialists to assist them in making proposals.

"Public meetings at all stages of the process should be held in places which enable the maximum number of community members to attend, and [they] need to be conducted in the predominant language(s) spoken in communities."

The centre also said some communities still reported mining companies for refusing requests to access SLPs, and that although SLPs were public documents‚ greater legislative clarity was required to ensure there were no loopholes to justify a failure to make SLPs accessible to communities.

"First‚ the MPRDA should be amended to state unambiguously that the SLPs and annual compliance reports are public documents in their entirety."

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