[WSMDiscuss] Mining conflicts multiply, as critics of ‘extractivism’ gather in Johannesburg

Patrick Bond pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sat Nov 10 20:14:20 CET 2018

(If you're near Joburg, this tribunal against TNCs underway now - 
including tomorrow - is excellent. And be sure to come for the opening 
plenary on Monday which will turn into a protest against AngloGold 
Ashanti next door, in the mining precinct of Newtown.)


*Mining conflicts multiply, as critics of ‘extractivism’ gather in 
Johannesburg *

By Patrick Bond

The World Social Forum’s ‘Thematic Forum on Mining and Extractivism 
<https://www.thematicsocialforum.org/>’ convenes from November 12-15 
here in Johannesburg, just after the Southern Africa People’s Tribunal 
on Transnational Corporations 
<http://aidc.org.za/3rd-session-peoples-permanent-tribunal/>. In 
between, at the notorious 2012 massacre site on the platinum belt to the 
west, there’s a launch of a new book – /Business as Usual after Marikana 
/– critical not only of the mining house Lonmin but of its international 
financiers and buyers.

This is the moment for a profoundly critical standpoint to take root, 
unhindered by ineffectual reformism associated with Corporate Social 
gimmicks and the mining sector’s civilised-society watchdogging at the 
mainly uncritical 
Alternative Mining Indaba. That NGO-dominated event occurs annually in 
Cape Town every February, at the same time and place where the 
extractive mega-corporations gather.

The Thematic Forum firmly opposes <https://www.thematicsocialforum.org/> 
‘extractivism.’ Unlike the Indaba 
it aims to connect the dots between oppressions, defining its target as 
extraction of “so-called natural resources” in a way that is 
“devastating and degrading,” since mining exacerbates “conditions of 
global warming and climate injustice. It subjects local economies to a 
logic of accumulation that privately benefits corporations,” and 
represses “traditional, indigenous and peasant communities by violations 
of human rights, affecting in particular the lives of women and children.”

The last point is not incidental, as two of the main organisers are the 
Southern Africa Rural Women's Assembly 
and the WoMin <https://womin.org.za/> network: “African Women Unite 
Against Destructive Resource Extraction.” Inspired by Amadiba Crisis 
Committee activists in the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast, they’ve campaigned 
hard for the _#Right2SayNo 

Last month, such rights language proved invaluable in the Constitutional 
Court here in Johannesburg, when the Itireleng community won 
a judgement <http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZACC/2018/41.html> against 
displacement from their farm, under attack by a local platinum mining 
house. (This was pleasantly surprising to many of us who are Court 
critics, given how much corporate power 
is hardwired into South Africa’s founding document.)

On the Wild Coast last month, South Africa’s Mining Minister Gwede 
had shown how desperately he wants investment by the likes of aggressive 
Australian titanium mining firm MRC 
But the Amadiba Crisis Committee 
<https://www.facebook.com/amadibacrisiscommittee/> and its allies have 
consistently shown their ability to say “No!”

*No means no*

The Forum’s opening morning features a demonstration at the nearby world 
headquarters of AngloGold Ashanti, the locally-listed firm shamed in 
2005 by Human Rights Watch 
<https://www.hrw.org/report/2005/06/01/curse-gold> for its alliances 
with warlords during the minerals-related murder of millions of people 
in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2011, AngloGold 
Ashanti won the title “world’s most irresponsible corporation” at the 
‘Davos Public Eye’ ceremony 
organised outside the World Economic Forum by Greenpeace and the Berne 

Since then the firm has attracted even more intense community, labour, 
feminist and environmental protests from Chile 
<http://ejatlas.org/conflict/mina-cerro-vanguardia> to Colombia 
to Ghana 
to Guinea 
to Tanzania <https://www.mdpi.com/2079-9276/1/1/3/htm>, as well as at 
home in South Africa 
over mass retrenchments, inadequate pay and delay of silicosis-related 
compensation payments. It’s a sick company, with its Johannesburg Stock 
Exchange price having fallen by more than half since a mid-2016 peak 
(and even further from its 2006-12 JSE valuations).

by investors who believe “AngloGold has not matched up to its global 
peers” in large part because of less profitable South African holdings, 
AngloGold Ashanti is rapidly exiting its home country. The firm 
made its fortune during the notorious 20^th century era of extreme 
apartheid extractivism when it was run by the Oppenheimer family. 
Perhaps even worse is the new boss, Kelvin Dushnisky 
who has presided over Toronto-based Barrick (the world's largest gold 
producer, known in Africa as Acacia) during its recent reign of mining 
terrorism <http://protestbarrick.net/>, including mass rape 

The mining corporations under fire at the Forum are not only the typical 
pinstriped, ethics-challenged cowboys from the 
London-Toronto-Melbourne-Joburg circuits. Next door in Mozambique, 
Rio-based Vale’s coal-mining operations at Moatize were disrupted last 
month, according 
to activist allies at the Associação de Apoio e Assistência Jurídica às 
Comunidades, due to “excessive pollution [and] acceleration of the decay 
of  houses due to explosion of dynamites.”

Albeit trying to “mask brutal exploitation with the language of 
South-South solidarity,” as documented 
by Canadian researcher Judith Marshall, Vale is brutal in numerous 
jurisdictions, judged by Berne Declaration and the Brazilian Movement of 
Landless Workers as worst company in the world 
in 2012 due to “its labour relations, community impact and environmental 

In Mozambique, Vale as well as the Indian firms Coal of India, Vedanta 
and Jindal have been criticised for displacement and destruction. 
Community protests 
against foreign companies are prolific in coal-rich Tete Province. 
Further east, on the Mozambican coastline, beach sands in some 
communities have been destroyed by the voracious Chinese firm Haiyu.

a local resident who can no longer carry out fishing subsistence, 
Nassire Omar, “They owe us because they have taken our beautiful sand 
from us and left nothing. We don’t know the quantity of the sand that 
they took over seven years, but we know that they profited from it and 
we want our dues. They have taken all the riches here and left us with 

But it may be that Vedanta <http://www.foilvedanta.org/> and its boss 
Anil Agarwal – who is also Anglo American Corporation’s largest single 
investor with more than 20% of shares – has witnessed the most sustained 
protest, including a mass protest in May against the ThoothukudiSterlite 
copper plant which his officials responded to with a massacre of 13 
Indians demanding an end to pollution.

Protest against Africa’s largest copper mine, Konkola, centres on 1,826 
Zambian farmers 
poisoned by Vedanta. Just before the London Stock Exchange delisting of 
Vedanta last month, popular reggae musician Maiko Zulu protested 
(and was arrested) at the British High Commission in Lusaka, demanding 
that authorities deny Agarwal his escape from London prior to justice 
being served. Agarwal bought <http://www.foilvedanta.org/?s=Konkola> 
that mine for $25 million in 2004 and a decade later bragged 
that ever since he had taken $500 million to $1 billion home from 
Konkola /annually./

Maiko Zulu just before arrest at British High Commission, Lusaka, 27 
September 2018

*After extractivism*

These sorts of Western+BRICS modes of super-exploitation exemplify the 
mineral, oil and gas looting 
underway across Africa. The uncompensated extraction of non-renewable 
resources amounts to an estimated $150 billion annually, far more even 
than the $50-80 billion Illicit Financial Flows and $50 billion in legal 
profit repatriation from Africa by mining and petroleum firms.

But increasingly, mining houses are pushing the people and environment 
too far, and resistance is rising. As Anglo American Corporation leader 
Mark Cutifani remarked 
in 2015, “There’s something like $25 billion worth of projects tied up 
or stopped” by mining critics across the world.

How activists can increase that figure is the topic of next week’s 
discussions, along with moving from these critiques to strategies for 
post-extractivist systems of political economy, political ecology and 
social reproduction.

(Patrick Bond – pbond at mail.ngo.za <mailto:pbond at mail.ngo.za> – teaches 
political economy at the Wits University School of Governance in 

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