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Improving the development framework of the mining sector: the voice of civil society

The news has recently been shaken by the debates on the revision of the mining code. Mining resources (precious stones, gold, nickel, cobalt, etc.) as well as ecosystems and biodiversity, are part of our natural capital on which the sustainable socio-economic development of the country depends.

The frameworks that will define their exploitation are therefore critical, and must try to balance the different points of view of society's actors. Below are some comments from members of the Platform of Civil Society Organizations on Extractive Industries (OSCIE).

A mining policy before laws and regulations

Almost twenty years after the last reform, Madagascar's mining sector is in a state of disarray. However, those in power consider it to be one of the levers of growth for Madagascar's development. But has the country really given itself the means to develop its mining sector?
We do not know what exactly is in our subsoil. The map of Madagascar's mining resources dates, for the most part, from before 1960. It is incomplete and inaccurate.  Without this information on the quantity and quality of our mineral resources, it is difficult for us to manage them properly (for example, to define what we want to do with these resources or to anticipate mining rushes), and we are in a weak position when negotiating with the private sector, particularly multinational companies.
Apart from the control of the subsoil, the development of the mining sector should reconcile unavoidable imperatives: sectoral and multi-actor arbitration with respect to the occupation of the territories and with respect to the valorization of the resources in these territories, preservation of the social capital and the environmental capital on which our economic development depends, better governance...
Thus, within the framework of the consultation process for the revision of the mining code led by the Ministry of Mines and Strategic Resources, Civil Society Organizations are calling for the transparent definition, within the framework of an inclusive process, of the national mining policy which does not exist, before finalizing the legislative and regulatory texts. The mining code would then be a real instrument to achieve the objectives of this policy. This policy should integrate measures favoring research/exploration by the Malagasy State, and favoring the first transformation of mining products. Civil society organizations also insist on the need to put communities at the heart of the issues and problems of the development of this mining sector.
Will they be heard? What will happen to all the recommendations addressed to the Ministry of Mines and Strategic Resources by the different interest groups, consulted separately? Civil society organizations have every reason to be deeply concerned.

Mining permit holders to be subject to clear obligations regarding the environment and respect for human rights

From the point of view of civil society organizations, actors who hold mining permits (mining permit holders) should only be authorized to exploit mining resources under clear, mandatory conditions, as set out in a set of specifications.
In particular, in accordance with the Charter of the Environment and the international conventions on human rights ratified by Madagascar, the principles of polluter pays, precaution, prevention, mitigation of possible negative impacts, compensation, restoration and rehabilitation of ecosystems (especially at the end of mining operations), and public participation should be scrupulously respected.
In particular, given its capacity and the scale of its project, the mining licensee should be subject to human rights obligations, as well as to corporate social responsibility norms and standards. Within this framework, operators should give preference to local labor and engineers of equal competence, transfer skills, including continuous training and the progressive replacement of expatriates by nationals. They should contribute to the socio-economic development of the location within the framework of a negotiated social protocol, respecting human rights, equity and transparency, and ensuring the maximization of the economic and social benefits of its activities. The operator should adhere to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
Finally, in order to ensure compliance with the obligations of the mining permit holder, any serious misconduct, as defined in the articles of the mining code, should be subject to sanctions, up to and including withdrawal of the mining permit.

Including the management of the quarry sector in the mining code

Quarries (stone, earth....) play an important role in the economic and social development of our country for the supply of materials for the building and public works sector. The quarry sector has experienced an industrialized development in some areas. This has brought to the fore dysfunctions concerning the modes of exploitation and management of these quarries, with the inefficiency of the control of existing quarries and the emergence of many informal quarries. The situation has destructive effects on the natural environment, the living conditions of the communities, the infrastructures and the revenues of the Malagasy State.
Therefore, Civil Society Organizations believe that it is necessary and urgent to include the quarrying sector in the legal and regulatory framework governing small and medium-sized mines in order to preserve the social and environmental balance on the one hand, and to remedy the dysfunctions and problems caused on the other hand.
Civil society organizations propose, in particular, to include in the mining code currently being revised, the obligation to establish quarry management plans at the level of each region in order to better manage operations and supply the market with development materials.
These regional plans for the management of quarries must comply with the provisions of laws and regulations in force, particularly with regard to public health and safety, communal planning, urban planning, protection of natural ecosystems, historical monuments and cultural and human heritage, preservation of fish species and their habitats, conservation of forest resources, fisheries and their exploitation, protected areas and plant and animal species, agricultural development and logging.