By Elias Mhegera – Small miners in Tanzania have called for the government to give them enough space so that they can make positive contribution in the nation’s economy.
This call was part of the deliberations made after a three days capacity building for small miners that was organized by three NGOs namely Policy Forum, HakiMadini and Interfaith Standing Committee for Economic Justice and Integrity at the Ubungo Plaza.
Listening to various experiences from best practices namely from Ghana and South Africa they resolved that they will find ways so as to strengthen their organizations and face their challenges more professionally.
From Ghana was Ms Hanna Koranteng from Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) who said even in her country the relationship between small miners and that of the central government is that of mutual suspicion and constant conflicts
There are constant evictions of small miners to the extent that human rights lawyers and activists have always come for their rescue.
“Prior to forming strong unions of small miners in order to promote their rights the tendency was that large scale miners could use arbitrary laws not only to erode the benefits of small miners but also to humiliate them,” she commented.
With an intervention of human rights lawyers there are positive developments not only of inhibiting arbitrary arrests and detention of small miners but also protection against environmental destruction and pollution caused by mining activities.
She revisited a nasty experience in her country in 2006 when various NGOs revealed that military brutality had even led to the death of some small-scale miners. This then led to the formation of a formal partnership with the Ghana Armed Forces and the Ghana Police Service in September 2008.
She acknowledges that this experience generated great concern for how artisanal miners would be treated. However she admits that this was after a bitter struggle after the common citizenry complained that they were not seeing direct benefit to their lives due to big scale mining.
“My people complained that big scale mining did not only deny them land for agriculture but also meat that they used to get freely from the wild forests which now were taken for mining purposes.
Moreover even water was no longer safe for use after spill of cyanide in Dumasi and surrounding villages which occurred on June 16, 2006. In another incident cyanide was spilled in Bogosu Gold new tailings dam and it washed into the Ajoo stream,
This was the only stream that was left in the community. The deadly chemical killed fish, crabs and lobsters and polluted the stream, which is the source of drinking water for the Dumasi community and its environment.
Dumisani Mngandi from South Africa gave an experience in South Africa and said the associated problems apart from causing land grabbing were capital flight, natural replenishment and corruption.
He said that instead of job creation the reverse has always been the case citing the ongoing crisis now in his country, to the extent that there is job loss and in many cases under invoicing as a strategy to evade tax.
For his side Bishop Dr Stephen Munga from the Interfaith Standing Committee for Economic Justice and Integrity said that the small miner groups have so far done a recommendable job after having pressurized for mining companies to use local content than imported ones as it used to be previously.
“Let me congratulate all groups be it in Mara, Arusha, Morogoro, Tanga, Geita, Mnyara and Singida, the language has always been the same that small miners opinion must be taken into serious consideration and that the government interaction with them,” he commented.
For his side Zephania Mgaya from small miners in Manyara said that in almost all mining sites in Tanzania it is the small miners who detect them but once the Government come to know this it always kick them out without giving them deserving compensations.
”We need to have solidarity and how the Government has treated small miners during their eviction. We must ensure that there are contracts of how the indigenous people will benefit from the big scale investments,” he commented.
He lamented that small miners are always treated as intruders although the Government collects tax from them. “We make direct contribution to this country, but big scale miners take resources away and they send them abroad,” he added.
A prominent lawyer and lecturer Prof Chris Peter Maina said that one problem with the Government in Tanzania is that it enters into contract without conducting first proper evaluation processes.
“It is strange that today Corporate Social Responsibility is taken as if it is a favour, in reality this is a lawful payment, Tanzanians are accustomed to begging in situations that they should be negotiating,” he concluded.
Representative of the Government Mr Ally Samaje, Acting Commissioner for minerals from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral said that the Government has enacted various laws including the Mining Act of 2010 in order to accommodate artisans and small miners.