CSR should be a binding law in mining: Perspectives
By Ndanatsiwa Tagwireyi
Although section 13(4) of the Zimbabwe Constitution clearly stipulates that the state must ensure that local communities benefit from resources in their areas, the reality in some mining communities show that this is yet to be fully realized.
It is on record that on 13 November 2020, community members including environmental monitors, villagers and the councilor for Mapirimira ward in Zvishavane staged a peaceful demonstration against a local chrome mining company for failing to repair tertiary roads, sink boreholes and scoop weir dams for the community as part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Such an act indicates concerns of communities in mineral rich areas who feel that they are not getting much from the extraction of resources being undertaken in their areas.
“In brief, the communities are not benefiting from mining activities in these areas,” Midlands Province Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Chairperson Bigboy Murenga told the Mining Vision Magazine citing that: “It is the responsibility of every miner small or big to take care of the community in which they mine from.”
“In Zimbabwe, the state of resource-rich communities, perhaps with the exception of a Zimplats and a few companies tells a sorry state,” Center for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) Director Farai Maguvu said. “Marange, Mutoko, Midlands, Hwange, just to mention a few, have not received any meaningful CSR projects.”
“Politicization of mining has also resulted in powerful politicians receiving personal ‘donations’ or protection fees in lieu of CSR; thus CSR is tokenistic, often costing a few thousand dollars. The figures are then inflated when reporting to shareholders,” Maguwu hinted.
Following an observation that most mining communities are not fully benefitting from mineral resources within their proximity, CSOs and residents in the Midlands province and other areas have shared their perspectives on whether CSR should be a binding law or not.
Maguwu said: “CSR must be legislated so that it is traceable, enforceable and measurable.”
His standpoint was also supported by a Zvishavane based Hands of Hope Trust Founder and Director Millicent Nhutsve who said: “CSR should be made a binding law in the extractive sector because mining companies owe it to the communities to bring sustainable development through financing of projects, construction of healthcare and educational facilities.”
“It is only proper for the government to enforce a policy which mandates mining companies to give back in communities they mine from, the law will also ensure that extracting mining companies are responsible in preserving the environment they mine from,” Nhutsve, who is also a ZIMCODD social and economic justice ambassador told to the Mining Vision Magazine.
Midlands based media practitioner and resident Nyasha Dube weighed in noting that: “CSR should be a binding law because most mining communities have a resource curse, whereby resources are extracted yet the communities remain poor,”
“Not much development has taken place in those areas but the minerals benefit somewhere else; natural resources in those communities must be a capital to be used for the development of communities,” Dube said.
Hands of Hope Founder noted that initiatives such as construction of roads, buildings, boreholes, donating towards life skills training, facilitating workshops for upcoming miners on handling of hazardous chemicals and explosives are some of the CSR initiatives that mining companies should consider.
“They should take solid examples from Shabani Mashava Mines which through CSR built houses, schools hospital and recreational facilities transforming Zvishavane and Mashava communities,” she said. “The law will also ensure that extracting mining companies are responsible in preserving the environment they mine from.”
A lot of environmental degradation takes place in mining communities. In the Midlands Province, several concerns about miners leaving disused open pits after mining have been put forward in areas such as Mhondongori, Mapanzure, Shurugwi and others. These pits have over the years become death traps for animals, plants and human beings.
A 2018 Midlands State University Study titled, ‘An assessment of the impact of mining on the environmental rights in Zimbabwe: The case of Mapanzure in Zvishavane, Midlands Province 2009-2017,’ indicates that mining infringe the fundamental rights of people as evidenced by the violation of the right to a safe and sustainable environment, right to environmental information and ecological degradation among others. It also noted that many people lost their means of living due to land degradation and depletion of grazing lands as livelihoods of many locals were dependent on agriculture and livestock.
Lack of a solid law on CSR in the extractive sector has been cited as a major contributor to lack of clarity on what mining companies should do and what communities should expect in order to hold both parties accountable and create a win-win situation.
“Since there is no law which binds them, most mining companies are a bit selective on offering their help in communities. What is really disturbing is communities themselves do not know that extracting companies should give back through CSR,” Nhutsve said
Maguwu also echoed a similar view citing that: “There is no prescribed percentage of what goes to CSR from a company’s annual income. Since it is done in the name of charity, communities cannot complain that it is too little.”
It has also been noted that small scale miners must be roped in if CSR is to be made a binding law as they also contribute to environmental degradation in communities in as much as they contribute to the economic growth of the country. However, downside risks were also noted in relation to making CSR a binding law
“We have more small scale mines than large scale, meaning these are causing more environmental damage than large scale mines; some small scale miners are practicing open cast mining which has extreme environmental effects covering wide swathes of land,” CNRG Director said. “Since their activities change landscapes and affect ecosystems, they must give back to the communities through CSR projects.”
According to a ZIMCODD social and economic justice ambassador Nhutsve: “The biggest challenge is because of the prevailing economic challenges and an increase in unemployment levels; a lot of youths have become illegal unregistered artisanal miners invading most mining spaces in the Midlands region, so having to account for all of them to give back is an impossible task.”
“If our government through the Ministry of Mines thoroughly focuses on fighting corruption in the mining sector this will encourage accountability and transparency on mining claims allocation etc hence making CSR initiatives a must and successful,” she told the Mining Vision Magazine
However, Great Dyke Communities for a Better Environment Trust Programs Manager Musavengana Hove is of the view that making CSR a law might chase away investors as mining companies are a being taxed by the government already.
“So in as much as I would want them to give to society, I am cognizant of the fact that the government is getting tax from these mining companies,” Hove said highlighting that: “If CSR becomes an act, it will be a populist movement that appeals to the general public in communities but will destroy the few remaining mining industries.”
“It appeals to emotions but I am saying free will offering should never be turned into a tithe because there is no need, these companies pay taxes, the government should develop these communities after getting tax,” Hove told the Mining Vision Magazine.