Rio Tinto Responds to critical Reports on its Practices in Mozambique Coal Fields

The SARW report was particularly critical of the way that affected communities had been relocated to a remote area 40 kilometres away from the mines and far from the main road, how they had not been properly consulted and how they had not been provided with either the promised infrastructure or sufficient fertile farmland – leaving many of them worse off than before, despite all the mineral wealth being dug up from their former land.

Indeed, hundreds of affected families publicly protested about their treatment in January just as the SARW report was being launched.

“It is heartening to hear that Rio Tinto has read our report and taken the observations seriously – and that it is actively trying to tackle the key issues,” said Dr Claude Kabemba, Director of SARW. “We are also very pleased to hear that Rio Tinto is keen to meet SARW and other relevant stakeholders to discuss how to deal with existing challenges and how to ensure that the Tete coal fields become an example of how to do business – as opposed to yet another example of how not to do it.”

Rio Tinto’s response stresses how important good community relations are to the firm’s success and states clearly that its “community work…occurs within our human rights framework, which reflects the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and entails a commitment to respect human rights consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Resettlement is no exception – all programs must be governed by The way we work, our global code of business conduct; our Communities Policy and Standard; our Resettlement guidance note; and the International Finance Corporation’s land acquisition and resettlement guidelines appropriate to the jurisdictional context. Our Human Rights Policy also informs all resettlement programs.”

 

However, there is sometimes a sizeable gap between the paper policies of mining companies and their actual practice. And Rio Tinto admitted that the observations made by SARW did reflect “at least to some degree the issues facing the resettlement program at the time of Rio Tinto’s acquisition of the Riversdale license in July 2011.”

But the company argued that some of SARW’s points did not necessarily reflect the situation on the ground. For example, Rio Tinto claim that there was consultation with the communities and that “written and signed records (with minutes and agreements) were kept of all interactions involving Riversdale, the Government and the communities” – although this was clearly not the view of many of the community members that the SARW researchers spoke to.

In addition, Rio Tinto claimed that efforts “have been made to provide as much opportunity as possible for relocated families to continue farming activities with families resettled by Riversdale receiving a minimum of two hectares per family for farming, in addition to the land provided for habitation.”

Moreover, the company said that it “would like to reassure communities and other stakeholders that it remains committed to stimulating productive economic projects and employment in resettled communities as well as ensuring acceptable social infrastructure is in place, and procurement of local goods and services is enabled.”

The company did admit that the SARW report was correct because challenges do remain but replied that these were “being tackled using collaborative, long-term approaches….In particular, appreciating existing challenges relating to resettlement including livelihood restoration and economic development, a series of assessments, gap analyses and diagnostics have been undertaken to identify the areas requiring attention and improvement in the immediate, medium and long-term.”

Rio Tinto is adamant that by working “alongside the Government of Mozambique, we hope to build capacity and establish positive precedents that will contribute to Mozambique’s social and economic development across industries and over the years. Rio Tinto is aware that its work with communities and around broader human rights issues in Mozambique is a continuing process and necessitates ongoing consultation with all relevant stakeholders.”

The aim of SARW’s work is to ensure that the mineral wealth of Mozambique – and southern Africa as a whole – benefits all citizens, not just a few. SARW’s reports aim to promote dialogue between communities, companies and governments so that mining becomes the driver of real socio-economic development for communities near the mines but also across the country.

For that reason, SARW welcomes Rio Tinto’s response to the report (although it does not deal in detail with many of the observations) and is keen to begin a constructive dialogue with the company to make the most of the opportunities provided by the massive coal fields in Tete to genuinely benefit local communities – and all the people of Mozambique.

 

Both the report and Rio Tinto’s response can be downloaded at www.osisa.org

 

For more information:

Dr Claude Kabemba, Director, Southern Africa Resource Watch, Tel: 011 587 5000, Email: ClaudeK@sarwatch.org
Richard Lee, Communications Manager, OSISA, Tel: 011 587 5031, Cel: 083 231 4192, Email: Richardl@osisa.org

 

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