Sally Dickson DeLeon
Environmental Conflict Resolution
Dr. Saleem Ali
Precious Mineral in Africa: A History of Conflict
The story behind the economy of gold is a complex one, perhaps as full of conflict and coveting as it is of wealth and security. Especially in Africa, where the legacy of colonialism bears strong connections with the presence of large gold and diamond mining operations, there is a tendency for poverty-stricken communities to resent and distrust mining companies and the national governments who endorse their claims to land and resources1. This situation is further complicated when local communities compete with mining companies over scarce resources like land and mining rights. This environment raises interesting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) challenges for a U.S. based company like Newmont, currently the world’s largest corporate producer of gold, as it begins operations in Africa. It is not simple to make strategic decisions in the complex global system in which Newmont functions. The way that issues are framed in the midst of this complexity can have important implications for stakeholders and decision outcomes. This paper will examine one decision that has been brought to Newmont’s attention, and how key stakeholders may be able to frame the issues of this decision to improve their bargaining power and solicit the company’s participation in a negotiation.
Historically speaking, the federal mineral policies of African countries have tended to encourage the growth and operation of large-scale mining operations to boost royalties and tax revenues while either marginalizing or ignoring artisanal and small- scale mining operations (Walser 2006; Hilson 2006c). In some cases, these governments have seen artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) as a threat to their resource bases and a nuisance to the large companies with which they wish to do business. Governments have sought to control ASM by instituting anti-smuggling programs and other security measures without directly addressing the poverty of most ASM miners. Especially in countries with stagnant progress in human development, it makes sense that rural communities have come to perceive their federal governments as allied with the interests of large mining companies and uninterested in the plight of community poverty. These perceptions have most likely lead to widespread distrust of government initiatives (Hilson and Potter 2003). In recent years, International Finance Institutions, multilateral and bilateral aid agencies and peace-keeping organizations have developed the realization that ASM is fundamentally connected to the poverty-cycle in many mineral-rich developing countries2. A paradigmatic shift has taken place with the perception of a connection between ASM and the road to achieving the Millenium Development Goals. However, a long history of distrust, together with a dearth of community-backed approaches are understandably a barrier to the germination of federal programs to improve livelihoods for those engaged in ASM (Hilson 2006a; Hilson and Potter 2003).