6 September 2016
IHRDA and Action Contre l’Impunité pour les Droits Humains (ACIDH) organized a one-day colloquium in Lubumbashi on 30th August 2016 to discuss the experiences of local communities affected by mining activities in the Haut Katanga Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and their attempts to access justice for violations suffered as a result of land evictions and other consequences of mining activities in the region.
The idea for this colloquium stemmed from the scale of human rights violations associated with the activities of extractive industries, especially in the Katanga Province which is extremely rich in mineral deposits. The Government in 2001 undertook reforms to render the mining sector more attractive for investors, but the expansion in mineral exploitation has resulted in widespread violations of rights of local communities, notably forced eviction without adequate compensation, relocation to areas without adequate socio-economic facilities and services, such as schools and hospitals, together with water, land and air pollution resulting in public health hazards. Amidst this scenario, the judicial system has not often provided adequate remedy in cases filed by local communities.
The meeting brought together representatives of affected communities, lawyers and CSOs responding to violations related to mining activities and judicial officers in the area.
Colloquium participants discussed the impact of mining-related activities on local communities as well as the legal framework governing such activities in the DRC. Representatives of local communities shared their experiences, notably with regard to loss of arable land and accommodation, challenges to access potable water, health and education facilities, exposure to diseases due to pollution, inadequate compensation for relocation, non-payment of royalties, non-awareness of the development plans of exploitation companies, as well as appalling working conditions in these companies. On their part, judicial officers and lawyers explained the procedures for receiving and the handling of mining-related matters.
At the end of the deliberations, participants put forth recommendations to enhance efficiency of the procedure for issuance of concessions to mining companies and the judicial procedures on mining-related abuses, especially as these violations often involve health hazards that necessitate urgent remedial actions.
It should be noted that this activity accompanies IHRDA’s and ACIDH’s joint-litigation of mining-related violations on behalf of local communities before a domestic court. As an extension to the mission in The DRC, IHRDA and ACIDH will conduct a follow-up visit to these communities, as well as to other communities with similar experiences, to discuss potential legal advocacy actions beyond the domestic courts.
The colloquium was funded by Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), DRC.