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Mineral Dependent Countries

Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what recent discussions he has had on reducing levels of inequality in mineral dependent countries; and if he will make a statement; (92777)

(2) what assessment he has made of the effect of large-scale mining operations on women in developing countries; and what he considers to be the policy implications for his Department of this assessment;

(3) what steps he is taking to help ensure that the rights of indigenous people are protected in countries with large-scale mining operations.

DFID’s involvement in the assessment and management of the impacts of large-scale mining projects on all vulnerable groups—including women, children, indigenous peoples and the poor—is indirect. We aim to influence the development of the systems and procedures used by the international financial institutions, in which we are ‘shareholders’. They do invest directly in such projects.

DFID has not itself undertaken specific assessments on the impact of large-scale mining on women, indigenous peoples or equity in developing countries, but is working to ensure effective systems are in place internationally to do this.

We recognise that women, indigenous peoples and the poor can be disproportionately affected by negative social and environmental impacts of all scales of mining, large and small, and can be excluded from the economic benefits. As with any development, it is critical that the impacts on vulnerable groups are taken into account. We are working for this to be a routine requirement of mining project assessment and operating procedures.

DFID has contributed to the development of environmental and social safeguard policies and procedures being implemented by the World Bank and its private sector arm—the International Finance Corporation. This includes policies on environmental and social assessment and the involvement of indigenous peoples and others in decision making.

DFID has provided financial support and leadership for the work of the World Bank hosted Communities and Small scale Mining (CASM) initiative. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that women comprise up to 30 per cent. of the 13-20 million people directly engaged in small-scale, informal sector mining. They work predominantly in the hazardous mineral processing areas such as manual ore grinding, and use of mercury for gold extraction. CASM has provided grants for women’s projects, for example helping set up the African Women in Mining Network, and helping develop gender components of mainly World Bank projects in Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia. It has also supported workshops and conferences on women in mining, for example in Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Peru. It is now preparing guidance notes on managing gender issues in mining.

Tackling inequality is an integral part of our work in all countries. DFID is working with several mineral resource rich developing country partners (for example the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Angola, and Sierra Leone) addressing issues including economic diversification, fairer terms and conditions for mine workers, minerals sector governance, public-private sector alliances and generally enhancing the contribution of mineral resource exploitation to growth, poverty reduction and sustainable development.