By ‘Majirata Latela
- Royalties should go straight to communities, instead of govt
- Mine spends M48m on relocation
- Minister gives Kao a pat on the shoulder
There have been renewed calls by communities around diamond mines for the government not to pocket royalties accruing from diamond sales but instead channel the money to the communities, at least once a year, so it can be used to develop such communities.
Lesotho, according to reports, is evidence that communities that live around the mines are living in poverty and not developed while the mines get to make billions from the minerals extracted from those communities.
Mokhotlong District Administrator, Serame Linake has in the past lamented that Mokhotlong remains underdeveloped despite boasting some of the biggest diamond mines in the country which produces some of the best diamonds in the world.
He had called for laws to promote utilisation of proceeds from the mines in a way that benefits local communities and improves their standard of living. Presently, the communities benefit from periodic employment and the mines’ corporate social investments, and he felt these are not enough.
“Our district has many minerals but the communities are not benefiting from them. For example, all the mining companies operating in Mokhotlong have their head offices in Maseru.
“This means all the core services rendered by the companies are found outside Mokhotlong, despite the fact that they operate in the district. All the minerals that are found in Mokhotlong get ferried to Maseru leaving just traces in Mokhotlong,” said the DA.
It is not only in Lesotho where communities living around the mines are complaining. Reports from neighbouring South Africa have indicated that a report on surveys of communities near mines owned by Anglo-American Platinum Ltd, Exxaro Resources Ltd. and Harmony Gold Mining Co., revealed s similar predicament.
“People who live close to mines have remained largely excluded from participating in the development of policies and legislation that directly affects them.
“Mining communities often complain about people being pushed off their land, pollution and the violence and sexually transmitted diseases associated with the influx of migrant workers,” reports say.
ActionAid has since indicated that South African government took R205bn ($15.2 billion) in tax and royalties from mining companies in the 10 years to 2018, that represents 24% of “value” generated by the companies, while employees took 47% and shareholders 29%. Communities received only R7.5bn, or 0.9% of the value.
Only on Wednesday this week, at the handing over of houses to the relocated 48 families of Tiping village in Kao, community committee leader, Manalane Molefi challenged the minister of mines who was present at the event that the government should consider foregoing royalties collection from Kao mine.
“We have heard that there is the money given by the mine to the government and I am glad the government is here today. I plead with the government that is present today on behalf of the communities of Kao that when Tiping community is being relocated, royalties for this year be used to develop the communities around Kao Mine instead of going into the government’s coffers.
“This is because we have realised that ever since the mine started operating in 2010 we have not seen any major developments from the mine except the social responsibility initiatives that the investors usually undertake, which are not enough to develop our communities.
“Also, the government should at least consider raising the relocation compensation from M1.45 per square metre to at least M10.00 per square metre. This will enable the relocated families to start life afresh wherever they will be relocated to, especially in these times when prices of land have really escalated,” said Molefi.
She pleaded with the government to bring services such as Home affairs closer to them so that when the mine stops operating they will continue to work in those government institutions and earn money to meet their needs.
For his part, the minister of local government and chieftainship affairs, Tsoinyane Rapapa agreed with Molefi, noting that that if the government stops receiving royalties from the mines, that would also curb corruption.
He said that was a good idea that the government should consider because the money collected from those mines will be used transparently to fund projects that will develop those communities which have been affected by the mine.
The Member of Parliament for Motete Constituency, Tumahole Lerafa requested that the environmental impact assessment for the mine should be revisited because if the mine did get an EIA clearance they could have seen from the beginning that Tiping village which is only being relocated after 10 years of operation, should have been moved before the mine started operating.
“How possible is it that the people who did the EIA did not see that Tiping village had to be relocated because it is very close to the mine and thereby will be negatively affected by the operations of the mine? Didn’t they see that the village would need relocation?” he asked.
Lerafa added that the journey to reach an agreement for relocating those families has not been an easy one as it all started in 2006 with KDM Company which was investing in the mine. He said since the time of starting discussions on resettlement those people have not been allowed to build any more properties or even renovating those they have, and that has not been fair on them.
On behalf of the mine, Storm Mountain Diamond CEO, Mohale Ralikariki said the mine is in the middle of different villages and that means its operations directly affect communities. As SMD they only started consultations with the community in 2016 until 2019 and they have not had smooth discussions as the people did not trust they would keep their promise.
“The mine has used M28million to relocate 48 families, 20 did have properties such as agricultural land, housing land other properties and they were all compensated with money for those properties, 28 of them were residents at Tiping village, 13 chose to relocate to other places in Kao instead of a place chosen by the mine.
“Here, we have just located 25 families. Since they are new in this place we will not only leave the community to struggle on their own, we will also build a health post in this area because we have realised that during rainy seasons rivers overflow, making it difficult for people to cross over to the clinic.
“We will also give them assistance in making sure that they improve their livelihoods, such as the project which is already running where the community is taught to produce detergents (dishwashing liquid, cleaning cream and others). All those products will be sold to the company that is contracted to do cleaning at the mine,” Ralikariki said.
As for the minister of mining, Serialong Qoo, he said other mines should take a leaf out of SMD’s book when it comes to working with communities around the mine.
“Because diamond deposits will deplete over time, I am today in the presence of Deputy Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu, making a public announcement that SMD should on Monday visit the office of Commissioner of Mines to look out for where they could find more Kimberlite. I would like to see this company given a license extension because they have proven to be competent.
“This way, we will be repaying SMD for the good work they have done in the communities around the mine. The Commissioner of Mines should work hand in hand with the CEO and send geologists where there is a possibility of further mining, soon rather than later,” he stated.