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Communities demand stake in mines

by Sunday Express
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Billy Ntaote
Maseru

Stakeholders attending last week’s dialogue on Lesotho’s proposed mining policy were unanimous the regulations should guarantee shareholding for communities living around every local mine.

The Ministry of Mining began public consultations on the draft mining policy from 1 May, hence Wednesday’s dialogue attended by representatives of Mokhotlong, Kolo, Lekokoaneng and Ha-Ntsi communities, and other key stakeholders.

The dialogue, held in Maseru, was organised by the Lesotho Council of Nongovernmental Organisations.
One of the participants, Mr Molotsi Foloko of the Maluti Community Development Forum, representing Mokhotlong, said residents should benefit from resources in their districts.

Mr Foloko further noted the Forum had realised Letšeng Diamond Mine was extracting very precious gems and making super profits, yet local communities were not benefitting from the revenue.
“The policy should ensure the Mokhotlong community gets at least 10-percent shareholding in the Letšeng Diamond Mine,” Mr Foloko said.
Mr Mopako Hapane from Kolo in the Mafeteng District also spoke strongly about the need to ensure ordinary Basotho have shares in mines located in their communities.
“If the policy affords us the chance to own shares in mines in our districts, we would be better off as communities. Apart from that, we should always be consulted in everything as we are directly affected by these mining projects,” said Mr Hapane, who is a Mantso Community Councillor.

Mr Mabusetsa Lenka Thamae of rights-advocacy group, Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), also said the mining policy should guarantee ownership for local residents.
“A 10-percent shareholding for communities living around the mines would go a long way towards improving the lives of Basotho,” Mr Thamae said.
“There is need for Lesotho’s land laws to be amended so that the people have direct control over their natural resources. Public-participation should also be part of the law so that we can easily participate in all our affairs.”

Meanwhile, the Mining Commissioner, Mr Mpooa Mpooa, told the dialogue the Ministry of Mining started working on the draft policy in July 2013, adding “now it is time to hold public consultations over the policy”.
Mr Mpooa said one of the objectives of the public consultations was to ensure all districts have their views included in the regulatory document, which would be used as a guideline for investors when embarking on social responsibility projects.
“The intention is to see everyone benefitting from minerals mined in their communities. In that policy, we would also clarify how long companies are expected to have their expatriate staff working in Lesotho mines and how to ensure local residents are hired by mining projects,” Mr Mpooa said.
The policy, Mr Mpooa added, would also help ensure all mining companies deliver on promises they make to local communities.

The Ministry of Mining Principal Engineer, Mr Mohale Ralikariki, on his part, emphasised government would want to ensure the views of all Basotho are incorporated in the final mining policy.
“When public-consultations on the policy begin in May, the ministry expects civic groups, individuals and all stakeholders in the districts, to attend the meetings we are going to be hosting across the country with the assistance of district administrators.
“Having a mining policy would allow the government to have a role to play when investors make promises when they are about to set-up their mines.
“We would be able to easily hold the mining bosses to account and ensure they deliver on the promises they make to our people,” Mr Ralikariki said.

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