Gaborone — Citizen participation in the mining sector is a decisive factor in the prosperity of the industry in Africa, says Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Mineral Security, Mr Eric Molale.
Contributing during the Africa mining summit panel discussion on Tuesday, Mr Molale said local communities were increasingly seeking economic benefits from mining activities in their regions through equity stakes, infrastructure development and job creation.
Mr Molale said there was an increased drive within countries to secure greater royalties and equity for communities from mining companies, and to examine how mineral wealth could be translated into economic opportunities.
African countries, he said, should strive to empower their citizenry and create an inclusive environment for them to realise the important role they played in the mining sector.
He said there was need to ensure that benefits derived from a mine were distributed properly to boost the country's economy as failure to do so could resulted in uprisings and protests by local people demanding greater benefits.
"Investment agreements between mining companies and governments should be structured to ensure that the work of the mining company makes a positive contribution to the development of a country," he said.
Minister Molale said Botswana remained a shining example of how mining could transform a country's economy if benefits were equally distributed.
"The development of world class diamond deposits has paved the way for consistent economic growth which allied to the government financial prudence and development oriented policies has resulted in considerable progress in the economic and social development in Botswana," he said.
Another speaker, African Union commissioner of trade and industry, Mr Albert Muchanga said there should be alignment between government and mining companies to ensure that issues such as land access, economic benefit, relocation of communities and indigenisation were correctly managed and economic opportunities for communities maximised.
He said social risks in mining had been overlooked resulting in projects being disrupted by protests from surrounding communities.
Mr Muchanga said the situation was compounded by an increased number of mines being established in conflict environments where small impacts could trigger violent action.
Noting that communities across Africa were increasingly learning and understanding their rights regarding mining and economic development, he said it was important for companies to understand and mitigate such potential social risks and avoid conflict around the mine.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>