PRESS STATEMENT | New research report on the state of improper mine closures in SADC

Date: 21/06/2024

Today, Lawyers for Human Rights together with Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (foundation) launch their new research report, Unpacking the state of Mine Closures in the Southern African Development Community, at the Fifth African Regional Indaba on the UN binding treaty on business and human rights.

In November 2022, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung released their research report tracing the evolution of mining in South Africa in order to explore the impact of mine closures on affected communities from their perspective. The report highlighted that the continuation of improper mine closures and abandonment of mines by mining companies is mainly due to ongoing regulatory failure and corporate impunity. Our engagements with activists, community organisations, and members of mining-affected communities in the process of creating the report further uncovered several clear reasons as to why ineffective mine closure has become a defining characteristic of the industry in South Africa.

Pursuant to this report, LHR and Rosa Luxemburg expanded their research on improper mine closure to key mining economies within the South African Development Community (SADC) to identify whether there is a similar trend within the region with respect to mine closures. This research highlights that as is the case in South Africa, the state of mine closures in the SADC region is also problematic, with inadequate rehabilitation practices leaving communities and the environment at risk. Key issues include the absence of effective mine closure policies, poor enforcement of existing regulations, minimal penalties for non-compliance, and a lack of transparency in planning and funding, which allows for corporate impunity flourish.

The report analyses the legal and policy frameworks of key SADC member states, assessing their alignment with international and regional standards and identifying gaps in implementation. Through interviews with activists and experts working within the SADC region, the report also investigates the practices of mining companies regarding mine closure, including their compliance with regulations, community engagement, and environmental stewardship. Drawing from successful mine closure practices in other regions, the report suggests strategies for effective community engagement, sustainable rehabilitation, and long-term environmental monitoring. The report concludes with recommendations to improve mine closure practices in SADC, emphasising community participation, international and regional standards adherence, and responsible corporate behaviour to promote sustainable development and protect affected communities.

The launch of Unpacking the state of Mine Closures in the Southern African Development Community at the Fifth African Regional Indaba on the UN binding treaty on business and human rights locates this discussion in the broader context of business and human rights and the need to regulate business activities and its impact on human rights throughout the entire lifecycle of a mining or development project.

“Improper mine closure is a recurring problem that affects many mining economies within SADC and beyond. This illustrates that a failure to properly close a mine is not unique to a specific country but rather the mining industry more broadly, which is historically rooted in exploitation and corporate impunity. Regional and international policy, such as the SADC Protocol on Mining and a Treaty on Business and Human Rights, has the potential to close these gaps and ensure that business, whether it is of a domestic or transnational character, are held accountable for rights violations, including those violations that flow from improper mine closure,” says Thato Gaffane, an attorney at Lawyers for Human Rights.

For further information:

Thato Gaffane, Attorney at Lawyers for Human Rights,

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