African Civil Society Says No to Mining – Yes to Life!

Africa is rapidly becoming a huge mining zone. The hunger for Africa’s natural wealth – her oil, minerals, metals, land and water – is turning into a second scramble for our continent in a bid to drive the mistaken idea of endless economic growth and development. Over the last few years prospecting and mining has grown exponentially. As the more concentrated deposits of minerals, metals and fossil fuels become depleted, so the technology and toxins used to extract become ever more destructive. Mining is therefore no longer what it used to be. It is no longer in isolated pockets but it can take hold anywhere.

And yet, African governments promote extraction as the new wonder opportunity to generate enormous income to put them in the league of the ‘developed world’. This is justified as a national priority which is then used to legitimise mining in any area of our continent, no matter how precious.

This happens at the expense of the primary national priority: to protect the conditions upon which life depends – healthy ecosystems (soils, water, biodiversity) that support our food systems and therefore the security/sovereignty of our African communities and the farmers that feed us all.

When the Earth is mined, what is extracted cannot be replaced. What is torn up, as part of extraction, cannot be put back. What is toxified can never be cleaned up. A polluted water cycle knows no boundaries. Mining leaves a toxic wasteland for generations to come.

Is this the legacy we are willing to leave our children? Where will they get clean water? Where will they grow their food if every province in every country is mined, as the present projections estimate?

We, a network of like-minded organisations and communities, are drawn together by our vision and deep sense of responsibility to ensure that we leave a healthy planet for the generations to come. Our mission is to protect critical ecosystems through reviving indigenous traditions and their custodial governance systems, which have taken care of sacred natural sites and territories for millenia.

We are deeply concerned about the runaway scale and intensity of mining we are now witnessing, and the impact it is already having on the lives of the communities we work with. Small farmers still produce 72% of the world’s food, despite all the pressures they are under from unsustainable “development” practices. Grabbing community land is like grabbing food out of our own mouths and those of our children.

Our experience has shown that:

  • Communities do not benefit from mining. Mining enriches a few for a short time but impoverishes many by taking away land and other productive resources which would have been used for food production, now and into the future. It undermines livelihoods that communities have sustained for generations.
  • Mining threatens our water, our territories and our wild places. Where there is no water there is no life. When we lose our ecosystems we lose the wealth of diversity that we depend on to build resilience to climate change. Climate change will hit Africa worse than any other continent.
  • Mining does not create the type of jobs that contribute to our well being or improve our way of life. Instead it destroys sustainable, meaningful and diversified livelihoods, which local communities control, rather than depending on speculating interests, short term jobs and terrible working conditions.
  • There is no such thing as sustainable mining. Mining means destruction and toxification of the land and water systems. About this there can be no pretence. Once the materials are mined a toxic wasteland is left which cannot sustain life. If our ecosystems are destroyed our children have no future.

As a network, we are committing ourselves to:

  • Building community cohesion and resilience and ensuring that the communities we work with have a full understanding of the impact of extraction on ecosystems and their future options.
  • Recognising the central role of elders with rich indigenous knowledge in all the work we do.
  • Engaging with young people for intergenerational learning processes with knowledgeable elders to ensure the continuity of knowledge transfer to the generations to come.
  • Supporting communities to revive their customary laws of origin and to gain legal recognition for their custodial governance systems.
  • Protecting and regenerating critical ecosystems, especially sacred natural sites and their networks and territories, so as to provide for a healthier future for our children.
  • Fully supporting all communities to have free, prior, informed consent and genuine consultation on all issues around extraction, and support the communities who say NO to mining.

We are calling for:

  • The recognition that no mining can take place in any sacred natural sites and territories or in any protected areas. A healthy planet is inextricably linked to healthy ecological life support systems. Each country is responsible for protecting the integrity of its life support systems as a national priority. Mining and extraction must be strictly controlled.
  • Recognition of the voices of the indigenous communities, especially their knowledgeable elders, who are the last generation and are profoundly ecologically literate. In the face of our massive ecological and climate crises we need to acknowledge and proactively learn from them how to rebuild resilience.
  • Strengthening of our diverse, ecologically adapted African food systems which have generated the enormous diversity of crops on the continent. We call for support for the growing food sovereignty movement in its commitment to revive Africa’s traditional diversity of food, and to build resilience back into our food systems.
  • Recognition of sacred natural sites and territories and the custodial governance systems which have protected them for millennia, as the last remaining sustainable bio-cultural systems on our continent.

In conclusion:

We want to challenge the unsustainable consumption and production systems being imposed on the African continent, which undermine our own livelihoods, skills and traditions.

We call on academics, religious and civil society leaders and social movements to join forces in a campaign to build on our unique African strengths and heritage and to stop our continent from being the dumping ground for foreign systems and products.

We are the last generation that has the possibility to revive, enhance and protect our severely threatened knowledge systems and our territories, before it is too late. It is our responsibility to speak on behalf of the future generations. What we choose to do now will decide the future for our children.

This joint statement was drawn together by the following organisations:

African Biodiversity Network (ABN), Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), The Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD), National Association for Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), Movement for Ecological Learning and Community Action (MELCA-Ethiopia, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity, African Centre for Biodiversity, TOAM, SEATINI, FRA, Envirocare, La Via Campesina, ESAFF, Nature Tropicale, PELUM Kenya, JVE, Kenya Biosafety Coalition, Upper West Coalition on Mining, Food Sovereignty Ghana, Alliance for Food Sovereignty, Rains.

Contact

Bernard Guri, Chair of AFSA Board: Email:guribern@gmail.com

Karen Nekesa, ABN: karen.nekesa@gmail.com