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African Mining Indaba: decent and sustainable work must be the future of mining in 2050

7 February, 2019“What does the future of work entail when mining is done through automation, and how will workers and mine-affected communities’ benefit?” 

These are some of the questions that framed debate at the African Mining Indaba and Alternative African Mining Indaba, held in Cape Town 4-7 February.

The theme for the Mining Indaba, a forum bringing together thousands of representatives from governments, mining companies and investors, was “Championing Africa’s sustainable economic growth”.

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary, spoke on a Mining Indaba panel called Transforming the future of the workforce and communities: What is the role of technologies and local content policies:

 “The technological transformation taking place in mining should protect the rights and interests of workers as well as those of mine-affected communities. New jobs must be created and there must be a fair and Just Transition, lifelong learning through reskilling and upskilling of mineworkers, and improved health and safety. The recommendations of the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work report should be adopted.”

On the panel were representatives from the ILO, African Rainbow Minerals, and the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association.

The theme of the Alternative Indaba, composed of civil society actors and communities, was “going stronger, forging forward” as part of celebrating its ten years of activity. The second day of the Alternative Indaba focused on sustainable development with participants from the two indabas engaging in discussions. Alternative Indaba participants marched to the venue of the Mining Indaba to present their list of demands to mining companies for communities to benefit equally from mining and for sustainable mining that respects communities.

The Alternative Indaba, which this year had 500 delegates from 26 countries, is a movement for mine-affected communities to raise voices, reflect, learn and share, and mobilize on the rights of communities.

Some of its successes include improved policy engagement with governments, forcing mining companies to have dialogue with communities, including women and, in some instances, forcing the companies through community mobilization to comply with environmental laws. The Alternative Indaba, which received support from IndustriALL and other organizations, is also campaigning for the implementation of the African Mining Vision and engaging the African Union and governments, and represents artisanal and small-scale miners.

Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director for mining, emphasized on another panel that “the social and environmental costs of mining are not reflected on companies’ balance sheets but externalised and passed on to workers, their families, poor communities and the state. Occupational injuries and ill-health have huge social and economic implications for society. Indirect costs include the costs of livelihoods lost, lost income to dependents, and the cost associated with caregiving by families and the community.”

Presidents Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, and Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, said at the Mining Indaba that mining had potential to lead on sustainable economic development in Africa through infrastructure development and job creation.