Many communities in Africa would argue that mining has brought them more harm than good, but does mining have to be destructive?
From the gold mines in Ghana, to diamond extraction in Sierra Leone, to cobalt extraction in DR Congo, there is a feeling that what is taken from the ground does not benefit the people that live in those areas.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan recently urged African leaders to ensure the extractive industry and exploitation of natural resources benefited the people of the continent when he addressed heads of state at the African Union summit in the Gambia.
But how can mining communities prosper from the minerals beneath their feet? Do you live in a mining community? Are you a miner? Have you been tempted to give up your job and join the rush to the mines? What mechanisms should be put in place to stop exploitation? Or have you seen the benefits of mining to your life and community?
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This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments. You can read a selection below.
Not at all, mining companies are investing in Africa big time and many communities are now getting water, electricity and medical care thanks to them. It is about time Africans stopped moaning and complaining about everything and for the BBC to do a bit more research before coming up with subjects which they do not know much about!
Promises, promises, promises...we are even worse than where we were 30 years ago, all that money taken from our land to 'improvise' our lives - where is it all gone? Just leave us alone to develop our land - most of us from Ghana have been driven to live abroad where most of us don't have 'proper' jobs - where did you ever find a Ghanaian or an African heading a company in Europe or the Americas (there are only a few) - just leave us alone!
Awuraa Adwoa, London, England
It is high time that global watchdogs and globally enforceable legislation, protect environments, communities and people, where inadequate local policies fail to do so.
Bridget Castle, Nelson, New Zealand
Well, it depends on the country, we in Botswana have invested the mining proceeds and continue to so in infrastructural development. When Botswana gained independence in 1966, we only had 5KM of tarred road. Now we have a good network and other developments. Of course the money goes to other needs such as caring for the sick especially from HIV/AIDS (antiretroviral drugs). All in all it depends on the government, if they only want to line their pockets with proceeds from mining companies then only the leaders will benefit.
Imagine that a foreign corporation arrived one day with your national government's blessing and seized your home; and farm land for a less than a worthy compensation. They subsequently polluted your drinking water and created pits all over the community leaving behind hazardous waste dumps throughout your town. There is no justice in the system and the rule of law is given a different definition when big companies are involved. This is a classic story of environmental injustice and abuses across the full spectrum of economic, political, civil, social and cultural human rights.
The people will benefit if the government re-invest part of the proceed from the sale of the minerals back into the community. In the absence of corruption, the general populace will benefit from the sale of all natural resources. Transparency is an uphill battle in this business. Corruption is the only reason why people don't enjoy the gift of nature.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, U.S.A.
I don't know about destroying our lives but it definitely destroys our atmosphere. I come from Kitwe in Zambia where copper is mined. Sulphur fumes are regularly released into the atmosphere at night. The effect is that the air becomes acidic and its difficult to breathe. There is also the infamous Kitwe stream that mines and mine dependent industries dump waste in on a nightly basis. It runs through the middle of the town and the water is pure poison. It reeks of noxious fumes. Still few people challenge the situation. After all mining is Kitwe's livelihood.
R Zimba, Kitwe, Zambia
Mining brings money to the economy. Agriculture brings money to the economy. Majority of impoverished people in Africa depend on farming. The balance between mining and agriculture should therefore be well-defined. Surface mining is not the best option for mining operations. Let's think about the future of our farmers and the sustainability of mining.
Kwabena, Antwerp, Belgium
Mining like any other business in the world has certain standard procedures which should apply across the board! Hence in my opinion if giant mining houses in Australia, Chile or Russia practice corporate social responsibility then it should be the same in Congo DR, Zambia or Ghana. All the minimum standards must be observed.
Gabriel, Lusaka, Zambia
Zambia is one of the biggest countries in the world to produce copper but the benefits derived from the copper are not seen. Since the privatisation of the mining industry, the new owners have concentrate much on the profit to such an extent that roads, schools and other social amenities have gone down. The Zambian soccer standards which was sponsored by former ZCCM have poorly and adversely decorated. All the benefits and profits from the mining industry are being taken to the Countries of origin for the new investors.
Francis Chibwinja, Kitwe Zambia
I agree with the UN Secretary General that extractive industry and exploitation of natural resources should benefit local communities. Why would for instance Africans flock to Europe if there are paying jobs in these industries back home? When mines are established considerable capital goes into production of infrastructure (roads, schools, hospitals etc)which benefit local people.
Pascal Chinhamo, Bindura! Zimbabwe
Africa's minerals & oil have been a curse on the continent. These have kept swelled the coffers & afloat all the bad leadership that has plagued the continent for decades.
Ngwasi M. Chibikom, Buea, Cameroon
Well well, let me just give an examples the Bears is the world biggest mining company, yet you go to their office in Angola/Luanda most of the supervisor & manager all white south African, nothing to do with colour or race. Lets be realistic here companies that explore mine or oil should support the local communities by provided schools and health care centre or some sort or even scholarship. Dublin
As a Sierra Leonean, the only derivatives from mining are death, destruction, despair and disdain. For almost seventy-five years since our country was discovered as a mineral rich basin with diamonds, gold, iron etc. We still continue to be one of the poorest countries in the world. The only beneficiaries from our mines are the West who supply arms for pittance and the proceeds as well as institute economic and socio-political divisions to perpetuate their selfish ends. Ban mining and develop agriculture and life will be much better.
Shiaka. Ahmed. Mansaray, Sierra Leone
The benefits of the minerals go to the West and until these foreign companies learn to give back to the communities they destroy, our lives will continue to live in hell.
Ouborr Kutando, Obuasi, Ghana