Resisting mining and extractivism:
The Right to Say No Campaign
Thousands of communities are deprived of their communal land - almost without fail for unjust and inequitable compensation. Such deprivation is very often caused by transnational corporations, especially mining companies who gain the rights to mine the minerals below the surface of the land. In South Africa, the government and mining companies interpret the law to mean that the owners of land cannot refuse access to their land for mining. The act in question is the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA), which requires that mining companies consult all affected parties but does not empower communities with the right to give or withhold consent. Mining affected communities demand to be at the center of the decision-making process with respect to development in and over their territories and they are uniting in action against extractivism and draw inspiration from several other community struggles. Not least the Amadiba community of Northern Pondoland that brought their case to the first session of the Permanent People’s Tribunal in Swaziland.
The Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) who have been struggling against mining in Xolobeni on the Wild Coast of South Africa since the early 2000s, brought a case in April 2018 to the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria (South Africa). The case arose because of an Australian mining company TEM (Transworld Energy and Minerals), would like to mine the titanium-rich sands in the coastal area. Based on customary law and reinforced by the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act (IPILRA), ACC is asking the Court to declare that as the customary law owners of the land they have the right to determine how their land is used.
A campaign for the right to say “no!” based on the principle of free prior and informed consent has echoes with civil society efforts to regulate TNCs internationally through having the United Nations adopt a binding treaty on business and human rights. Through the Permanent People’s Tribunal on TNCs and other advocacy initiatives, AIDC has been supporting these efforts from an understanding of the need, not just to hold corporations to account but of the need to reverse the tremendous shift in power from people and the state to TNCs. A binding treaty that locks corporations into respecting the human rights of peoples affected by their operations, combined with campaigns for the right to say “no”, expressed through the principles of free, prior and informed consent could go some way in reversing the power of TNCs.
The Right to Say No campaign, is a coalition built around the iconic case of, the Amadiba. The campaign is designed to fight for the establishment of legal precedent, with respect to free prior and informed consent, which is believed to exist. The right to say no has application at national, regional and international level. The campaign will use case law to argue for the development of national legislation and international protocols which enshrine the right to say no. The viability of such a campaign is supported by the fact that several regional and international networks are already beginning to take up this issue and is likely to come to receive global attention at the planned World Social Thematic forum on mining and extractivism scheduled for November 2018.