The JUST WORLD Conference focused on developing proposals about how minerals can bring about development for the countries where minerals are found and how communities surrounding mines can benefit from the minerals that local workers help to extract.
The conference was focused on exploring models of ownership to ensure better outcomes with better distribution of the proceeds generated from mineral extraction to a wider range of stakeholders than presently benefit.
The keynote speech was delivered by Minister Dr Ben Turok, an ANC Member of Parliament, who emphasised the importance of the focus being to determine how mineral resources can be used to benefit people and the responsibility of government to place conditions on mining companies so that South Africa's mineral resources serve the empowerment of her people. He concluded by suggesting that we need a new paradign in South Africa and how we understand what is possible with our mineral resources.
Gavin Hartford discussed how Marikana represented a meltdown in industrial relations never seen since the adoption of the Labour Relations Act. He pointed to various drivers of this reality - how the people at the 'coalface' of the mining industry who do the most dangerous work, have no voice at the negotiation table because the unions have become 'labour aristocracies' with more accountability to mine management than to the workers.
Representatives from across the continent spoke of the fact that regulation of the mining industry is everywhere (deliberately) weak with the industry being centralised in a political elite and in security agencies with very disrespectful relationships with those who do the hardest work.
Problems were identified as a lack of monitoring of social and labour plans, a lack of benefits accruing to surrounding communities, and the seduction of traditional leaders who "are being reconstituted as captains of accumulation". Some resolutions were that the link between politicians and big business should be broken and that there should be regional coordination of policies to prevent a race to the bottom amongst African countries. These policies should include agreements on common standards for health and safety and for the social obligations of companies to mining-affected communities.
A first-hand report from Marikana:
The conference ended with a first-hand report from a member of the Marikana Support Campaign who explained the history of clashes between communities and the mining industry around Rustenburg and the desperation of mining communities who have tried repeatedly to raise their problems with a mine management that refuses to listen. Mine management simply referred the striking workers to NUM. When a delegation from the miners went to discuss their problems with NUM, they were apparently shot at by the NUM officials and two miners were killed.
The miners then decided to find their own space to gather and they moved to Wonderkop. On the way there, the miners were charged by members of the mine security and two mine security offers were killed when the miners took defensive action against the charging security officers.
On the following day, it is reported that miners who were on their way to gather at Wonderkop were shot at from both the ground and the air. The miners retreated and when they realised they were being herded towards a school, they changed direction to prevent children being injured or even killed. On this day, 2 miners and 2 security officers were killed.
The demonetisation and criminalisation of the miners continued in the media and by the mining company. At this point, the miners refused to back down. They had been exploited over a very long time and the bargaining structures were not representing their interests. The miners explain that they had no-one to protect them and that when the companies started talking, the government "knelt down and went and surrounded the miners and killed them mercilessly."
As the Marikana Support Campaign explains, a few days after the police killings on August 16, 2012, the government decided to introduce a state of emergency in Marikana, and the community became "an island of some kind." Women who tried to support their comrades then became the target of police action with police hurling teargas canisters into their shacks and then shooting at them with rubber bullets".
The affected community has resolved that they will fight back, that they will never agree to back off because they cannot afford to have poverty and unemployment as they now have while some people take resources for themselves and their own benefit." The workshop concluded with an appeal for help because the system needs to be changed and 'we are worse off that we were under apartheid.'
The workshop concluded with the issuing of the Church Leaders Call for Responsible Investment and for all concerned people to sign the declaration.