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Lesotho to Host Inaugural Mining Conference Amid Mounting Environmental Concerns and Social Tensions

18 March 2024 by Liapeng Raliengoane/Motsamai Mokotjo 

As Lesotho gears up to host its inaugural Mining Indaba Khotla, there is a pressing need to confront the realities surrounding the country’s mining and environmental laws.

This event, scheduled for April 25 and 26, 2024, at the ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre in Maseru, presents a pivotal opportunity to tackle longstanding challenges and chart a course towards compliance and sustainable development. 

“The premier Mining Indaba Khotla will bring together industry leaders, investors, senior government officials and stakeholders who will explore further opportunities, discuss and chart a way forward in regard to collaboration efforts to advance sustainable and innovative ideas in the country’s mining sector,” reads a press invite by this event’s organizers.

It further indicates that the conference will be held under the theme “The Future of Mining in the Global Landscape.”

According to one of the organizers, Tando Mandela, while Lesotho’s mining sector is faced with evolving challenges, it embraces the transformative opportunities that exist.

“This gathering therefore presents an opportunity for a frank discussion on critical issues that will shape the future of mining in the Kingdom of Lesotho, based on a variety of issues including technological advancements, environmental stewardship, community engagement, labour related matters and economic development,” said Madela.

The mining sector has long been a linchpin of its economy, with diamonds being a prominent feature.

However, alongside the economic benefits, mining activities have also brought environmental degradation and social tensions.

The existing legal framework, including the Mines and Minerals Act of 2005 and the Environmental Act of 2008, provides a foundation for regulation but enforcement remains a significant hurdle.

One of the key challenges is the limited capacity and resources of regulatory bodies tasked with oversight.

Without adequate funding and expertise, monitoring and enforcement efforts falter, allowing mining companies to operate with impunity.

Besides, the decentralized nature of governance in the country complicates coordination and oversight, particularly in remote mining regions.

Environmental concerns loom large over the mining landscape, with habitat destruction, water pollution, and air emissions being notable consequences of extraction and processing activities.

There’s a recent case highlighted by investigative journalist Pascalinah Kabi where Letšeng mine was flagged for environmental violations.

Inadequate environmental impact assessments and monitoring exacerbate these issues, leaving ecosystems vulnerable to irreversible harm.

Socially, mining operations have sparked tensions and grievances within affected communities.

Land displacement, loss of livelihoods, and cultural disruption are common grievances, exacerbated by inadequate consultation and benefit-sharing mechanisms.

To address these challenges, a multifaceted approach is needed. Strengthening regulatory frameworks and enforcement mechanisms is paramount, alongside greater investment in capacity-building and technology-driven monitoring systems.

Transparency and accountability mechanisms must be enhanced to empower civil society and hold mining companies and government accountable for their actions.

Promoting a culture of corporate social responsibility among mining companies is also essential. Adherence to international standards and best practices in environmental management and community engagement can mitigate social and environmental risks.

Additionally, aligning mining policies with broader development objectives, such as poverty alleviation and job creation, can ensure that mining contributes positively to Lesotho’s socio-economic landscape.

The upcoming Lesotho Mining Indaba Khotla presents an opportune moment to address these pressing issues and mobilize stakeholders toward compliance and responsible mining practices.

By fostering dialogue, collaboration, and concerted action, Lesotho can unlock the potential of its mineral resources while safeguarding the environment and promoting social justice for all its citizens.

Subsequently such concern is remembered: “Private companies, when asked to invest in independent countries, lay down conditions which are shown in practice to be inacceptable or unrealizable. Faithful to the principle of immediate returns which is theirs as soon as they go ‘overseas,’ the capitalists are very chary concerning all long-term investments.

“They are unamenable and often openly hostile to the prospective programs of planning laid down by the young teams which form the new government,” Frantz Fanon wrote in his book The Wretched of the Earth.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are solely those of the author (s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication or its editorial staff.

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