in the run up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (wssd) to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from August 26 to September 4, 2002 leading business establishments across the globe are scurrying to portray their respective sectors as sustainable. One such segment is the mining industry.
The recent launch of the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (mmsd) project report initiated by the Global Mining Initiative (gmi) -- a conglomerate of the world's leading mining companies -- seems a step in this direction. In the last decade after the Rio conference, the mining sector has been at the receiving end across the globe with regard to its poor environmental track record. Quite understandably, therefore major mining companies which did not evince much interest in the Rio conference, appear a concerned lot today.
Through initiatives like the mmsd, the industry seems all geared up to improve its tainted image. The project, was the brainchild of 10 major mining companies, which are a part of the mining and minerals working group of the Geneva-based World Business Council for Sustainable Development (wbcsd). It proposes to analyse the key issues for the mining and minerals industry. The report acknowledges the poor environmental conditions in the mining sector. However, non-governmental organisations (ngos) and experts working closely with mining issues have rejected the project. "mmsd is a knee-jerk reaction of the mining industry to put forward a humane face to dirty extractions that they are undertaking," says Ravi R Pragada, national convenor, Mines, Minerals & People, an ngo working with mining issues.
The mmsd report, circulated at the fourth Preparatory Committee Meeting (Prepcom iv) for wssd at Bali, Indonesia, in May was also criticised. According to a release from Jatam, an Indonesian ngo working closely with local communities affected by mining, Prepcom iv is a sham wherein people's organisations are drawn into meetings, in which they get very little official recognition and clearly exercise no influence on the chairperson's text.
"The mining companies are following the track-ii mode as they want dialogues and partnerships with the ngos and other civil society organisations. But they are not addressing the key issues: forging partnerships with the local communities affected by mining," says Pragada.
Activists affirm that indigenous people in most parts of the world have rejected the dialogue and partnership offered by the mining companies. "Such partnerships remind us of the indiscriminate killing of tribal people in Orissa in December 2000.
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