A Social License to Mine does not imply social peace. There appears to be much confusion on these two concepts – see this link which states:
We are not opposed to mining itself, but to its consequences, starting with the social conflicts that have left our families divided,” Maudilia Cardona, a local leader in the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacn, where the Marlin mine operates, told IPS.
This simple statement, coming from the heart, focusses our attention on two emotion-prompting issues: democracy and the family.
Democracy comes in many forms. There is direct democracy of the type so prevalent in California where interested voters may cast a majority of votes to deprive fellow citizens of fundamental rights, and set of a storm of law suites regarding the right of the majority to impose their prejudices on a minority. Then there is representative democracy where we vote for representatives to deliberate and decide on our behalf; an example is the Canadian Parliament where a mere thirty percent of the representatives rule with the grudging support of the seventy percent who are divided into three mutually antagonistic minority parties. Then there is the democracy of ancient Greece where only upper class males were allowed to influence the course of the state.
The point is that democracy does not necessarily imply the will of the majority, which can turn very nasty in a multi-ethnic state of many minorities. It is for that reason that we have constitutions that are supposed to protect the fundamental rights of minorities from the vicious prejudices of the majority. It is why we have courts, sometimes composed of impartial judges, to sort out the disputes that arise, and the compromises that must be made, for a multi-tribal society to function in the real world. It is why we must have a free press staffed by informed and educated journalists who can report on abuses of power by the politicians and the people who lobby them.
Democracy implies that we must have environmental impact statements for new mines so that society can evaluate the impacts of a new mine in a comprehensive way. But we must never forget that a successful EIS does not mean that every person in the potentially affected community will agree to develop the mine—or that every person in the region of the mine will benefit. The EIS means only that there is transparency of process and a consensus to proceed.
Then we must face the fact that an EIS and a Social License to Mine (whatever that means or implies) does not guarantee that families will agree within themselves. Inevitably one or more members of every family will hold views different from other members of the family. And you can be sure neighbors will disagree. This inherent tendency for family members to come into conflict and for neighbors to argue occurs whether the mine is there or not. I cannot conceive how anybody can correctly blame a mine for family and un-neighborly conflicts. I was born and brought up on a mine. My parents held very different views on the mine and the mining company: my father supported their every action. My mother claimed they were heartless and worked my father to death. My grandfather was grateful for the job that took him out of the poverty of Ireland; my grandmother knew the mine was negligent when my grandfather was killed in an underground rock burst.
As a child, speaking English learnt from my mother, I was part of a nasty little clan that taunted the kids who spoke Afrikaans, even though my paternal grandmother spoke only Afrikaans to me. I had not the perspective to note the silliness of my prejudices. As neighbors we benefitted from the same mine, but we found tiny differences to justify childish clashes. I cannot conceive how “sensitivity training” by Union Corporation (the company that owned the East Geduld Mine) would have turned us into nice kids playing with those Dutchmen up the road.
Times have changed since those days of the mid 1950s. But human nature has not changed substantially: we are still tribal & and paternal by instinct. Family members still do things their parents or spouses may not like. Yesterday I heard that my ex-wife is about to divorce her second husband. I never liked him, or could understand what she saw in him. I fought the divorce, but the law gave her leave to leave. And now she is an emotional wreck but a financial success. None of this silly family mess is the result of action or inaction by the companies I have worked for–unless you try to argue that they caused us to move around following the mining project instead of staying put in our birthplace.
I have been in mining communities all over the world. In every one there are winners and there are losers. There is always a mine worker who makes enough money to buy his kids a better bicycle and to buy himself a faster motorcycle. There is always a wild local with business instincts sufficient to build a new hotel to house NGOs come to protest the mine. There is always a widow left distraught at a husband killed in the mine, or left alone by kids gone to work on the mine. There is always a priest of the old, failing religion who looks with envy at the crowds flocking to the noisy music of an evangelical service across the road. The may even be a drug dealer who revels in the increased population and money to spend—and then there is his rival who opposes the mine for bringing order to a region he controlled as a quiet trade route.
Thus I submit: the world is always changing. Families are always in flux. Some grow rich and some grow poor. People will argue and envy. The mine is not to blame for these all to obvious natural tendencies and human emotions. The mine may indeed add money to the community that redistributes the basic interests and opinions, but it is not the underlying cause. Opponents of mines do themselves no service by making spurious claims that the mine disrupts the community. All they prove by such claims is that they are conservatives who fear the inevitable changes that make life so interesting. We may pity them, but we cannot take them seriously as they bleat at the inevitable that would occur in the absence of the mine—the only difference being that the mine gives them an excuse for their own shortsightedness and prejudices.