Governments are challenged in their efforts to create new approaches to governance that enable them to better exploit the developmental potential provided by mineral resources.
It is therefore imperative that countries establish regulatory frameworks and State capacity to ensure that mining activities are compatible with the efforts to promote inclusive and sustainable development, states University of the Witwatersrand International Relations Department Associate Professor Rod Alence.
Alence was speaking at the launch of the ‘Southern Africa Mineral Governance Barometer’ report, which took place at the Alternative Mining Indaba, in Cape Town, last month.
He explained that the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) – a natural resource governance project of Johannesburg-based foundation the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa – developed the barometer as a tool to assess the capacity of governments in the region to “rise to these challenges”.
Alence noted that Southern Africa was endowed with “lucrative mineral resources”, such as diamonds, gold, copper, coal, platinum and uranium. He said that this rich endowment could be a major asset in the quest for inclusive and sustainable development. However, he pointed out that mining in Southern Africa had often been criticised as an enclave sector that, at best, contributed little to economic development and, at worst, did substantial social and environmental harm.
“To avoid such pitfalls emerging, international consensus emphasises the importance of good mineral governance,” Alence emphasised.
He explained that this would entail the adoption and implementation of regulatory frameworks that promoted deeper linkages between the mining sector and the broader economy and that protected people and the environment from the potentially harmful consequences of mineral extraction.
This pilot study served as a barometer for mineral governance in ten Southern African countries, namely Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The barometer took stock of mining regulations in place at the end of 2015, the extent to which the regulations are enforced and the manner in which this is done. Alence commented that the study was based on the observation that, while regulations imposed obligations on mining companies, this directly imposed obligations on the State to monitor and enforce compliance and also, indirectly, imposed obligations on citizens and civil society to hold the State and mining companies accountable.
The barometer includes indicators of mineral governance across four main issue areas, namely national economic and fiscal linkages; community impact; labour; and the environment, with artisanal and small-scale mining treated as a
The barometer includes indicators of State capacity and State accountability
with respect to mineral governance.
Specialist researchers used a standardised research instrument to collect the data used to calculate the indicators in each country. The in-country researchers collaborated in developing and refining the instrument during two workshops.
Alence highlighted that an important feature of the data set, therefore, was that it consisted of objective descriptions of patterns of regulation and implementation and of institutional arrangements, while the indicators were not based on subjective value judgements.
“Our researchers compiled information from publicly available, although not always easily accessible, sources to capture not only whether a particular regulation exists in a country, for example, but also whether the State had recently detected or penalised any company for failing to comply with that regulation,” Alence elaborated.
The key findings of the report could be summarised on three levels, namely the prevalence of regulations, the extent of monitoring and enforcement and the importance of accountability.
Alence said that the prevalence of regulations varied substantially across countries but was generally high, with five of the ten countries having already incorporated more than two-thirds of the regulations required into their systems.
He remarked that the extent of monitoring and enforcement was considerably lower, with only “patchy” publicly available evidence of States detecting and punishing noncompliance by mining companies.
Further, Alence commented that accountability mechanisms that provide pluralistic forums for public participation emerged as the best predictors of monitoring and enforcement. “Stated differently, government officials are less likely to overlook breaches by mining companies when the citizens and civil society are keeping track.”
He said that the findings were also helpful in identifying gaps in what SARW called “regulatory presence”, which Alence explained was a composite of regulations, monitoring and enforcement.
Moreover, he highlighted that the barometer found that regulatory presence was lower for economic and fiscal linkages and community impact than it was for labour and environmental regulations.
“One interpretation is that labour and environmental regulations often apply by
default across many sectors, while regulations about linkages and community impact are more specific to mineral extraction.
“A complementary interpretation is that civil society is often better organised around labour and environmental issues, while the affected constituencies in the other issue areas are more likely to be sectorally fragmented (economic and fiscal linkages) or
geographically isolated (community impact),” Alence posited.
He said that national mineral governance scores differ in ways that, in part, reflected the size and importance of a country’s mining sector, but notable exceptions also emerged.
Alence pointed out that the top four countries were well-known mining economies, namely South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia. However, the scores of two other well-established mining economies, the DRC and Namibia, were
noticeably lower. He noted that the DRC, for example, had many regulations but was weak on implementation, while Namibia had few regulations but had a better record of implementing them.