The protest succeeded in shining a spotlight on the fact that Vale (recently given the Nobel of Shame as the world’s worst company at the World Economic Forum in Davos) and Rio Tinto have treated the people they resettled without care – indeed with contempt. Vale has now promised to resolve all the problems at the Cateme resettlement area within six months. But the company has failed to abide by many of its previous promises to the people it resettled – and few believe this latest pledge.
Now a new paper, Coal versus Communities: Exposing Poor Practices by Vale and Rio Tinto in Mozambique, details just how badly Vale and Rio Tinto have behaved as they put profits way before people in their rush to exploit the huge coal fields in Moazite. Written by Dr. Claude Kabemba and Camilo Nhancale for the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW), the paper highlights a series of key failings of the companies’ deeply problematic resettlement programme, including:
- Dividing the original communities by resettling workers close to the mine and dumping all the other people over 40km away and far from the main road – “The impression this model gives is that uneducated and unemployed members of a community can be dumped anywhere…”
- Moving families to the new sites even though construction work had not been completed and basic services – such as water and electricity – were not in place. In Mualadzi, people were resettled before the promised schools or clinic had been built;
- Constructing houses that are already cracking just a few months later;
- Not providing the promised paved roads;
- Providing insufficient land for the people – the majority of whom were subsistence farmers – in an area where the soils are not particularly fertile or productive. Illustrating the companies’ lack of care – the land is also claimed by other communities.
- Not consulting widely enough with the affected people, who claim to have had very little knowledge about the resettlement programme.
The simple fact is that the resettled people are now poorer than before – despite the vast sums being made from the coal being dug up from where their homes and farms used to be.
And there are a number of other worrying issues documented in the paper from the total lack of transparency about the mining contracts to the preference for expatriate workers and foreign suppliers to the apparent lack of concern for workers’ rights or the environment. The full paper can be read or downloaded from Osisa.org
The mining companies – and their friends in government – clearly though that they would be able to avoid living up to their promises to the people they resettled. The January protest must have come as a very rude shock. Even people dumped in the middle of nowhere can make their voices heard.
Hopefully, the demonstration and the SARW paper will spark the companies into action – so that the mines do end up benefiting the people who used to live on top of all those mineral riches.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Claude Kabemba, Director, Southern Africa Resource Watch: Off +27 11 587 5000: Claudek@sarwatch.org
Richard Lee, Communications Manager, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa; Off +27 11 587 5031; Cell +27 83 231 4192; Richardl@osisa.org