• Does mining cause social conflict?

    Back to Q&A List

    Mining can bring economic and social benefits to communities, through local job creation and resource revenues, but it can also create social changes that can lead to or worsen social conflicts.

    The causes of social conflict include lack of sufficient consultation and community engagement, lack of accurate information on mining impacts, differing expectations of social and economic benefits, environmental concerns, disputes over land use and economic compensation, Artisanal and Small Scale mining activities, migration to mining areas, and differing acceptance of large-scale mining. Canadian mining companies increasingly consider the social impacts of their projects, and seek to reduce or mitigate such conflicts.

    Early community consultation & engagement

    It is essential to establish good relationships between governments, large-scale mining companies, and local communities at the earliest stages of mining projects. This is especially important in countries that have a history of colonialism, where governments have neglected local communities and indigenous people , and where distrust of governments  or other groups in society  are common. [1, 2] Local communities may also oppose mining operations if they perceive that projects have been imposed on them without sufficient consultation.[3-7]

    Since mining operations may affect nearby communities socially, economically, and environmentally, communities expect to participate in decision-making and to share in the benefits of mining. It is therefore important to take these expectations into account and to address the concerns of local communities as early as possible. If community concerns are incorporated into mining projects (e.g., to prevent, control, and reduce environmental impacts) and if local communities see that they are receiving a fair share of benefits (e.g., through employment opportunities, construction of public infrastructure, CSR programs, etc.), then local communities are more likely to welcome mining projects.

    Ongoing community engagement, dialogue, and information

    Community engagement, including ongoing dialogue and information sharing, must continue throughout the mining phases and even following mine closure and remediation. Failure to do so can create distrust towards mining companies, especially in countries where there is a history or perception of widespread abuse, social injustice, and expropriation. [7, 8] Distrust often fuels or exacerbates social conflicts. It also makes it very difficult to resolve social conflicts once they occur.

    Lack of discussion and accurate information may also create social conflicts due to incorrect social perceptions. For example, in Latin America, opposition to mining is often based on claims that it has caused significant environmental damage. However, research by the World Bank has found that “the claims of environmental damage apparently stemmed from poor communication by the companies and, in some cases, from manipulation by local politicians and communities.” [1, p.9]

    Community engagement is not just about listening to the community one time. It is an ongoing process between mining companies and communities that includes being open and receptive to concerns, seriously considering and evaluating all concerns raised, taking action to solve relevant concerns, and being accountable to the communities. Part of this process involves informing communities about how problems are being addressed. For example, it is not enough to monitor water quality and availability; the findings need to also be communicated to the community in ways that are easy to understand. [9]

    The World Bank recommends that mining companies have good communication with communities from the onset of their relationship, are open to communities’ concerns and suggestions, and provide lots of information.[1] It also recommends that companies dedicate a unit to these tasks[1] and provide information on a regular basis.

    Information that should be shared with the public includes: taxes and revenues collected by governments, future taxes expected to be collected, the way taxes and revenues are distributed among governments[3], local government projects that will benefit local communities (planned and executed), environmental risks (e.g., availability of water, quality of water, management of risks), management of accidents that may have occurred, and implementation of CSR programs.

    Expectations from local communities

    Social conflicts may arise in spite of the economic benefits local communities receive due to high or unmet expectations. Unrealistic demands are usually a result of a lack of information and communication between governments, mining companies, and local communities. If local communities are not able to communicate their concerns, then mining companies will not be able to satisfy their social demands regardless of the amount of job creation or community development support.[4]

    Sometimes conflicts occur when community members are unaware of all the benefits mining projects bring. Communities often have no information about the revenues that central governments receive or their use and redistribution within the country.[9, 10] Communities may also be unaware of the social and economic benefits of government-run projects that depend on mining revenue (e.g., education and health services, energy infrastructure, potable water, sewage, schools, et cetera). Finally, the impacts and benefits of mining may be shared between several communities near large-scale mines, yet each community may be unaware of other community and regional benefits.

    The social demands of communities may also be unrealistic or go beyond the control of the companies. For example, a mining company in Indonesia, PFTI, was requested to protect villagers from local police harassment. While a request like this goes beyond the capabilities of any mining company, PFTI found out that this social demand was made because the company drove government security forces (police and military) through the mining area for safety reasons. For local communities, this blurred the distinction between mine employees and government officers. Subsequently, FPTI stopped providing transportation to security officers and, instead, trained government drivers to prevent injuries and disruptions when driving in the mining area.[4]

    Finally, the benefits from mining projects are sometimes slow to materialize. For example, in developing countries, the central and local governments may lack the capacity to spend mining revenues in an appropriate or timely manner.[11] In such cases, providing support to governments so they can strengthen their human capacity can contribute to communities benefiting from mining activities and reduce social conflicts.

    Conflicts regarding acquisition and use of land

    The acquisition and purchase of land for mining is a common cause of conflicts between mining companies and local communities.[12] Some of the problems associated with voluntary resettlement can take years to surface. For instance, community members may not have the skills needed to maintain houses built using permanent materials that replaced their traditional homes; or they may lack sufficient access to natural resources (e.g. fishery areas, agriculturally productive land) in new settlements.[13] Involuntary relocation usually poses more risks than voluntary relocation, as it can lead to homelessness, food insecurity, loss of access to public services, and social breakdown.[13] Indigenous people (aboriginals) are particularly vulnerable due to their strong cultural and spiritual connections with the land on which they live.[13]

    However, many conflicts related to land use and land acquisition can be prevented through government regulations and mining business practices. Government regulations and policies that reduce conflicts include granting land rights to local communities (especially indigenous people), establishing fair negotiating mechanisms for land acquisition, and providing social services in resettled areas (e.g. education, health, and transportation services). Mining business practices that have reduced conflict include creating new job opportunities for those who have been displaced, ensuring good agricultural productivity in resettled areas, guaranteeing provision of social services and access to common resources (e.g., fishery areas), compensating those people who did not have property rights but have occupied and/or made improvements to the land, and buying land at about same price from all community members and paying fair prices (“replacement value” instead of ”market value”).[1, 14] For example, Antamina Mine (Peru) bought all the land that it planned to use during the entire mining cycle at once and it paid similar prices for land of similar quality. It did this to avoid future conflicts and feelings of resentment that had been experienced in other mines.[1]

    Conflicts motivated by water availability and other environmental concerns

    The mining industry may require significant amounts of water, a critical resource in many in rural areas. Although mining and agriculture can coexist, reductions in availability and/or the quality of water is a well-founded social concern.[15] In order to prevent conflicts, mining companies are using technologies that maximize water recycling and avoid inorganic substances.[16] Mining companies may also reduce conflict by making potable water more available to communities. For example, in 1996 only 3% of rural households in Cajamarca (Peru) had access to piped water resources, but “by 2005, 85% of households had received new piped water connections, over half of which were installed by the mining company”.[16, p.17299]

    Wider environmental concerns may also create social conflicts. However, the mining industry now uses, in developed and developing countries alike, high technology that controls and reduces environmental impacts.[1] Moreover, large-scale mining companies also comply with–and even supersede--increasingly stringent environmental regulations to minimize any environmental impact.

    Social disturbances due to influx of immigrants

    An influx of workers seeking employment in mining regions can also create or increase social tensions. Their arrival may cause higher pressure on health and other public services in local communities.[13] Food and housing costs may also increase due to invigorated economic activity and higher demand for these products. [15] As power dynamics in the communities change, traditional socio-economic relations among residents and within family groups can also change and dissolve.[1] Rivalry may also increase between villages directly affected by the mine operation and those of nearby areas that do not receive the social and economic benefits of the industry and of CSR programs. [1, 13, 17]

    Newcomers may also be viewed suspiciously by existing community members and sometimes regarded as “[a] mass of people with weak links into society as a whole and a disruptive influence on local social control, leadership, and life styles”.[13, p.203] An influx of immigrants may also be associated with an increase in robbery, alcohol consumption, gambling, prostitution, and sexually transmitted diseases.[15, 17]

    Mining companies can plan for and reduce social problems related to an influx of migrants by improving the education and health services in the communities where they operate. Mining companies can also reduce the pressure on housing demand by building and providing housing to their employees and their families. Assisting workers to migrate with their wives and families can also mitigate some social disturbances such as prostitution, alcohol consumption, and gambling. However, migration and its associated adverse effects often occur in response to increased economic activity and opportunities, and may not be directly tied to mine workers. Hence, it is important to stress that governments remain responsible for providing social security, preventing delinquent behavior, and enforcing the law.

    Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners (ASM) & Conflict

    There is a natural tension between artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) and large-scale mining companies (LSM) as they may compete for the same resources or areas. Artisanal mining is informal and uses low mechanization or technologies, often illegally, and without environmental or safety precautions. [18] ASM is often environmentally damaging and can result in mercury contamination, water pollution, river damage, and abandoned pits and shafts.[18] It may also be tied to illegal activities, child labour, and human rights abuses that can damage the reputation and social acceptance of all types of mining.

    Confrontations between these two groups usually take place when artisanal miners illegally enter and mine within formal mining concessions.[7, 19] Issuing mining licences to LSM in lands that are being mined by illegal ASM can also be a source of conflict.[7]

    While avoiding this type of conflict is difficult, most mining companies are committed to reducing their intensity by complying with both the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the Implementation Guidance Tool Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. Canadian mining companies recognize and endorse these principles in the e3Plus - Framework for Responsible Exploration.

    iHistorical neglect of local communities and indigenous people may take different forms and be a result of different factors. It can broadly refer to the absence of the Rule of Law, the exclusion of communities from decision making processes, failure to provide basic social services and public infrastructure, promises made that are later unaccomplished, and the diminished impact of social policies due to corruption, local mafias, or activists with a political agenda.

    iiIn a 2010 survey conducted in 18 Latin American countries, 21.8% of respondents said they did not trust their governments at all and 32.4% responded they trusted them “just a little.” (Source: Latinobarómetro, http://www.latinobarometro.org/latino/LATAnalizeQuestion.jsp )

    iiiFeelings of distrust and resentment may be directed to various groups in society (e.g., people who hold economic power, people of different ethnicity).

    Case Study: Reducing Conflict in North Mara Mine (Tanzania)

    In 2008, African Barrick Gold (ABG) launched an ambitious program called the ”Artisanal Mining Initiative” in North Mara Mine (Tanzania). This US$ 2.5 million pilot project targeted 200 ASM miners in an attempt to transform ASM activities into regulated, productive, and sustainable small-scale mining operations. [7, p.321]

    Despite this initiative, in May 2011 a group of 1,500 people trespassed to steal ore from the mine’s stockpiles. This resulted in a confrontation between Tanzanian police and trespassers that left five intruders dead and a number of police officers injured. Subsequently, ABG partnered with the international NGO Search for Common Ground (SCG) in order to improve its relationship with the villagers. Various measures have been implemented to avoid future conflicts. These include:

    • Providing training on the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights to Tanzanian police;
    • Developing a conflict reduction, resolution and negotiation training program for community members (including leaders, traditional authorities, youth and women);
    • Creating culturally-appropriate educational materials to inform community members about the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights;
    • Designing an external grievance mechanism to deal with community concerns;
    • Facilitating a negotiation process between the company and the communities on a range of issues of concern; and
    • Designing alternative sources of economic development to help reduce poverty in the area and, as result, reduce the number of intruders in the mine.
    Of special importance have been the meetings between villagers and representatives of ABG. These meetings have allowed people to speak freely and to express their frustrations in a non-confrontational way. The participation by North Mara Mine General Manager Mr. Basie Maree in these meetings has been “greatly appreciated” by villagers. This has led to his being called “Basie Marwa, which means first-born boy child in Kurian, the local language spoken by most villagers”. [20]

    Other important measures taken by ABG include hiring additional female security officers and installing additional CCTV cameras in sensitive areas at the mine.[21] These efforts are contributing to a better relationship between ABG and the villagers. Chief Marwa Gabogwe, head of the Nyamongo clan, one of the biggest and most prominent Kuria clans in the region, hopes to resolve differences through dialogue and states that “together, we can find amicable ways of resolving the existing conflicts so that we rebuild peace for the community to co-exist with the mine.” [20].

    Show References


    1World Bank and International Finance Corporation, Large Mines and Local Communities: Forging Partnerships, Building Sustainability, 2002, International Finance Corporation.

    2Kemp, D., et al., Just Relations and Company-Community Conflict in Mining. Journal of Business Ethics, 2011. 101: p. 93-109.

    3Clark, A.L. and J.C. Clark, The new reality of mineral development: social and cultural issues in Asia and Pacific nations. Resources Policy, 1999. 25(3): p. 189-196.

    4Sethi, S.P., et al., Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc.: An Innovative Voluntary Code of Conduct to Protect Human Rights, Create Employment Opportunities, and Economic Development of the Indigenous People. Journal of Business Ethics, 2011. 103: p. 1-30.

    5Atleo, S., Resource Development and Indigenous People: Finding the path to co-operation, in Republic of Mining, S. Studol, Editor 2011: http://www.republicofmining.com/2011/09/14/resource-development-and-indigenous-peoples-finding-the-path-to-co-operation-by-assembly-of-first-nations-national-chief-shawn-a-in-chut-atleo/

    6de Soto, H. The Peruvian Amazon is not Avatar. 2010.

    7Carstens, J. and G. Hilson, Mining, grievance and conflict in rural Tanzania. International Development Planning Review, 2009. 31(3): p. 301-326.

    8Hinojosa, L. and A. Bebbington. Struggles over territory and livelihood in neoliberalized environments: transnational mining companies and civil society networks in the Andes. [cited 2012 March 1]; Available from: http://open.academia.edu.

    9Haufler, V., Disclosure as Governance: The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and Resource Management in the Developing World. Global Environmental Politics, 2010. 10(3): p. 53-73.

    10Bickham, E., The Business Case for EITI, in Advancing the EITI in the Mining Sector: A consultation with stakeholders, C. Eads, P. Mitchell, and F. Paris, Editors. 2009, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative [EITI].

    11World Bank. The Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI). 2011 [cited 2012 March 1]; Available from: http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/index.asp

    12Owusu-Korateng, D., Mining Investment & Community Struggles. Review of African Political Economy, 2008. 35(117): p. 467-473.

    13Mining, Minerals, and Sustainable Development Project (MMSD), 9. Local Communities and Mines, in Breaking New Ground:The Report of the Mining, Minerals, and Sustainable Development Project 2002, Earthscan for IIED and WBCSD. p. 198-230.

    14Mining, Minerals, and Sustainable Development Project (MMSD), 7. The Control, Use, and Management of Land, in Breaking New Ground: The Report of the Mining, Minerals, and Sustainable Development Project 2002, Earthscan for IIED and WBCSD. p. 141-170.

    15Apoyo Consultoria, Study of the Yanacocha Mine's Economic Impacts: Final Report, 2009, Prepared for the International Financial Corporation.

    16Bebbington, A. and J. Bury, Institutional challenges for mining and sustainability in Peru. PNAS, 2009. 106(41): p. 17296-17301.

    17Corno, L. and D. de Walque, Mines, Migration, and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa, in Policy Research Working Paper 5966 2012, The World Bank Development Research Group.

    18Hentschel, T., et al., Global Report on Artisanal & Small-Scale Mining, 2002, Minerals, Mining and Sustainable Development [MMSD].

    19Armah, F., et al., Assessment of Legal Framework for Corporate Environmental Behaviour and Perceptions of Residents in Mining Communities in Ghana. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 2011. 54(2): p. 193-209.

    20Barrick Gold. Rebuilding Trust at North Mara Beyond Borders February 13, 2012 [cited 2012 March 1]; Available from: http://barrickbeyondborders.com/2012/02/barrick-gold-rebuilding-trust-at-north-mara/

    21Barrick Gold. North Mara Update – September 2011. 2012 [cited 2012 March 1]; Available from: http://www.barrick.com/theme/barrick/files/north-mara/north-mara-update-sept-2011.pdf.

Connect:  RSS