Saturday, 25 February 2012

Mining and development

Here is an innovative twist in the 'mining as profit vs development for communities' debate (see the reams and reams of arguments around mining in South Africa for more):

Chiefs in Zimbabwe are demanding a seat on the boards of mining companies that operate in their areas. It's an interesting take. Mining is often controversial because it takes away wealth, as the chiefs point out, that should be helping to improve the people's standard of living. Arguments that propose nationalisation are built around the idea that the national government is best placed to make sure people benefit. This solution is more direct - the chiefs, who are directly responsible for the wellbeing of their people, could form part of the decision-making bodies that determine how the mining businesses will interact with the communities. This set-up also allows for a balance of interests because the chiefs represent one voice on the board, so business interests are still considered. It takes the triple bottom line from consultation to shared responsibility.

I realise there will probably be outcries about this but I think it would be an interesting experiment. Of course, there is the issue, at least in generalising this model, that some chiefs are not democratically accountable to their people, but many chiefs are elected, these days. They should try it, although I would add the proviso that the chiefs should never be paid to sit on the board and should be prevented from holding stocks in the companies.

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