DIAMOND mining companies in Lesotho still have a long way to go before they could understand the impact caused by environmental pollution, unemployment and cracks in the houses of nearby villages.
March 4, 2022
3 min read
Local diamond mines blasted
, Letšeng Diamond Mine in Mokhotlong
- High levels of nitrate detected in water samples near Letšeng and Malorane
- Communities near mines complain about poor job opportunities
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A study by the Maluti Community Development Forum (MCDF), said mining companies were making little to no effort towards mitigating the impacts of these problems in communities in which they operated.
The study said environmental pollution and lack of positive benefits such as employment were key issues observed in communities in Lesotho’s diamond mining areas.
Titled “Large-Scale Diamond Mining in Lesotho: Unpacking its Impact of Adjacent Communities”, the study said 46 percent of the respondents in Butha-Buthe and Mokhotlong villages for instance, were affected by cracks in their houses and 43 percent by dust pollution from the blasting during mining operations.
It said 40 percent of respondents living downstream from the Letšeng Diamond Mine in Mokhotlong was concerned with water pollution. The alarmingly high levels of nitrate have been detected in water samples near tailing sites in Letšeng and Malorane villages.
The communities also complained that job opportunities and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) benefits provided by the diamond mines were insufficient.
Also, the mining companies rarely gave permanent job contracts to community members and employed mostly people from outside the mining areas. While companies provided CSR benefits such as foot bridges, water sources and food parcels to the surrounding communities, they were not considered in line with basic community needs.
The Construction, Mining, Quarrying and Allied Workers Union told Maseru Metro in an interview on Tuesday this week that a lot still needed to be done to ensure the companies supported and cared about local communities.
General Secretary, Robert Mokhahlane said in most cases the villagers next to these big mining companies struggled to make ends meet while the mines made lots of profits.
He said the companies did not offer any compensation to damage caused by blasting during the mine operations but pointed out that both Letšeng and Kao Mines were trying in supplying water to the neighbouring villages.
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“But in other areas of importance all these companies are failing,” Mr Mokhahlane said. “So, we recommend that they work together with communities in order to fully understand what they need.”
The study has recommended that mining companies should include meaningful community consultations and obtain Free Prior Informed Consent as part of their interaction and communication with communities.
It further recommended that government should form a regulatory framework to guide interactions between the mining industry and communities, adding that conflict resolution, community consultation, monitoring and corporate social responsibility should be included in the framework.
According to the study, corporate accountability for human rights and the environment could be taken a necessary step forward, resulting in increased respect for and protection of the basic rights of all citizens in the country.
Diamonds are a valuable source of income that generate a significant boost in Lesotho’s economy, where growth in the diamond sector has contributed to an increase in the mining and quarrying subsector’s share of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Large Scale mining comprises largely foreign companies, which hold majority shares in all local mining companies while government holds minority shares.