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South African banks fund mining projects in southern Africa that raise issues over social, environmental, human rights impacts, says new report

3 May 2017 — Southern Africa Resource Watch, in announcing its report, South African Banks Footprint in SADC Mining Projects, said: "South African Banks are often key funders of a number of mining companies. Questions abound on the nature of these deals and the lack of transparency that surrounds them. There are concerns about whether banks do due diligence before they fund any mining activities to guide against corruption, social, environmental and human rights abuses that are linked to mining. This report interrogates the funding commitments of South African banks in mining in SADC and considers whether they can do things differently." The report reviews environmental, social and governance principles used by South African banks; common funding methods for mining projects and banks' decision-making processes; banks' policies on environmental, social and governance issues in their investments - and those policies' effectiveness.  It analyses six cases: Ghagoo Diamonds (Botswana); Geita Gold (Tanzania); Konkola Copper (Zambia); Marikana Platinum (South Africa); Vele Coal (South Africa); Kolwezi Copper (Dem. Rep. of Congo) and makes recommendations on the environmental, social, and governance frameworks for mining investments by South African banks. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the banks named to respond: ABSA, First National Bank (part of FirstRand), Investec, Nedbank, and Standard Bank.  Responses by Investec, Nedbank, and Standard Bank are below.

So. Africa: Mineral Governance Barometer for Southern Africa launched; pilot study reviews mining regulations in 10 countries

8 May 2017 — This pilot study provides a barometer of mineral governance in ten Southern African countries: Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The barometer takes stock of mining regulations in place at the end of 2015, the extent to which they are implemented, and features of supporting institutions. It is based on the observation that while regulations impose obligations on mining companies, in doing so they directly impose obligations on the state to monitor and enforce compliance, and they also indirectly impose obligations for citizens and civil society to hold the state and mining companies accountable. The barometer includes indicators of mineral governance across four main issue-areas: national economic and fiscal linkages; community impact; labour, and the environment, with artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) treated as a special topic. The barometer also includes indicators of state capacity and state accountability with respect to mineral governance...

Standard Bank response

30 Apr 2017 — In general, it is a well-balanced report, but we question some of the results and the conclusion. The results based analysis is based on exceptions, rather than the norm. From this, conclusions are then drawn around implementation. This demonstrates a lack of understanding of the scope of Equator Principles (EP) and indeed the banks’ leverage over clients to implement certain ESG practices...For example: on the two transactions Standard Bank is involved in: KCM (water issue): This is a legacy issue which KCM/Vedanta inherited as part of existing operations. KCM is working with the lenders on a clear plan of action to reduce the environmental impact...Lonmin (housing issue): Lonmin has implemented a number of measures as part of its ongoing housing plan having completed the conversion of all hostels into 1908 single and 776 family units. 

Africa: Video documentary on how land acquisition for commercial investment impacts local communities

5 Apr 2017 — "The Dynamics Of Land Deals in Africa" Looking at several large-scale land deals in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, this extraordinary documentary highlights the nuanced impacts of these investments. Small-scale farmers and producers, national government officials, and African policy-makers unpack the deals, showing that there are winners and losers when providing investors access to large tracts of land in Africa. For example, land deals impact differently on women and youth, and altering land regimes also impacts on access to other natural resources such as water, fish, and local indigenous vegetables. The various case studies discussed in the documentary raise issues that all stakeholders need to consider when making land deals. [Refers to Illovo, Kalumbila Minerals (part of First Quantum), Premier Corn, Hoyo Hoyo Agribusiness (part of Quifel Natural Resources), AgroMoz (joint venture Amorim Group & Intelec)]

Zambia: Communities continue to live in abject poverty and environmental hazards as mines continue to pollute the environment, says church group

5 Apr 2017 — "A choking beast of prey – Mega Mines in Zambia", March 2017 We visited Kankoyo and Chingola, two townships situated approximately 50km north of Kitwe in the Copperbelt region of northern Zambia...Kankoyo sits in the shadow of the Mufulira mine, smelter, concentrator and refinery...When we arrived, the air was thick with sulphur and dust....Mufulira is owned by Mopani Copper Mines, of which the global mining giant Glencore has a majority stake. Incredibly profitable, according to the European Investment Bank, Mopani has generated at least $560 million in tax revenues for Zambian government coffers since 2000. Why then do its neighbours live in abject poverty, suffering from unemployment and harm to health?...The people of these towns see nothing of the mine tax revenues and they are likely to die prematurely from the effects of pollution because state regulators do not compel companies to improve conditions. The wretched conditions of Kankoyo are documented in a 2012 film “Zambia: Good Copper, Bad Copper” [see Glencore's response to the documentary here]...As with Kankoyo, Chingola is an impoverished township of mostly former mine workers. Close by is Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) which is held by the Indian-owned, although London-registered, company, Vedanta. In 2006 KCM spilled a huge quantity of raw copper, manganese and cobalt effluents into the Mushishima and Kafue rivers which supply water to households in Chingola. Thousands were poisoned, leading to serious sickness and suspected premature deaths... [In a lawsuit against KCM by local residents over the pollution, in 2011] the High Court…ordered KCM to pay a total of $2 million to 2000 residents in Chingola…[On appeal] the Supreme Court upheld the High Court decision…[but made] it more difficult for residents to get damages by requiring claimants to obtain expensive medical reports. As such, to date, none of the residents have received any compensation. Perhaps the most distressing aspect of Chingola’s situation is that KCM appears to continue to contaminate the Mushishima river...

Zambia: Environmental management agency issues compliance and environmental restoration orders to KCM for "polluting the environment over 10 times the statutory limit"

30 Mar 2017 — "KCM polluting the environment by over 10 times the statutory limit", 28 March 2017 The Zambia Environmental Management Agency has issued two separate Compliance and Environmental Restoration Orders to Konkola Copper Mines to address various environmental issues by end of this month. And documents obtained from KCM’s Legal Department show that the mining giant has been emitting sulphur dioxide and cadmium which are 10.3 times and 13.41 times above statutory limits respectively...In 2015 an eight year long legal battle by 2000 contaminated residents finally ended when the Supreme Court of Zambia confirmed the High Court’s opinion that KCM was guilty of ‘gross recklessness’ and damaging villagers’ health. However, the $2 million in damages earlier awarded by the High Court was removed, leaving the residents short of real justice. Subsequently London law firms filed for damages from Vedanta Resources on behalf of approximately 3000 of the contaminated villagers...

Recent & future trends in access to remedy for corporate abuse – new briefing by Clifford Chance & Global Business Initiative

22 Mar 2017 — "Access to Remedy: The Next Frontier?", 16 March 2017 The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) have encouraged and assisted companies to adopt policies and due diligence processes aimed at respecting human rights.  Less progress has been made to implement the UNGP's framework for the provision of access to effective remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuse...In our second joint briefing for business, the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights (GBI) and Clifford Chance provide an overview of some recent developments relevant to access to remedy for business - related human rights impacts.  Not only do these foreshadow how corporate accountability may broaden in the future but, equally importantly, they demonstrate how important it is that business is aware of these movements and trends, and considers taking the opportunity to contribute its unique perspectives to the development of policy and practice in this area...

Corporations should refrain from tax avoidance to help poor countries realize economic & social rights, says UN committee

2 Mar 2017 — "Corporate taxation key to protecting human rights in the global economy", 2 Mar 2017 Last week in Geneva the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – a UN human rights body – held a discussion of its draft General Comment on State obligations in the context of business activities...Corporate taxation remains an under-explored yet critical piece of the business and human rights puzzle...[T]he amount of tax corporations pay, and where they pay them, has profound human rights implications.  All human rights, particularly economic and social rights, have financial costs...What’s more, the draft goes on to say that as part of their obligation to respect human rights extraterritorially...“States Parties should ensure that they do not obstruct another State from complying with its obligations under the Covenant...”...States should encourage business actors whose conduct they are in a position to influence to assist the States parties in which they operate...This would include “contributing to State ability to mobilize resources for the realization of economic, social and cultural rights, by refraining from strategies to avoid paying taxes in the countries concerned.”...

Ireland's tax laws let companies avoid taxes in poor countries, make reaching UN Sustainable Development Goals “impossible”, says Oxfam

1 Mar 2017

CIVICUS highlights challenging regulatory environment of CSOs & calls for collective response

14 Feb 2017 — "Contested and under pressure: A snapshot of the enabling environment of civil society in 22 countries", February 2017 Between 2013 and 2016, civil society in 22 countries carried out an Enabling Environment National Assessment (EENA)...The EENA analysis explores in particular how laws and regulations relating to civil society are implemented...In every country, six core dimensions were assessed: the ability of civil society groups to form, operate and access resources - all aspects of the freedom of association - plus the freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression, and relations between civil society and governments...Across the EENA countries, civil society's assessment is that the laws and regulations that affect civil society are often disenabling...Enabling legal environments are needed to help ensure that CSOs can play a full range of roles, including to partner with governments and others to advance social change...The EENA process demonstrates a willingness by civil society around the world to engage actively in improving the conditions for citizens' participation. It also indicates that...similar issues are being encountered, suggesting potential for enhanced cross-civil society overcome common challenges...