Since 1994, the mining elite has met annually in Cape Town for the world’s largest mining conference: “Investing in African Mining Indaba” (Mining Indaba). The conference gathers thousands of mining investors and government representatives with the aim to sustain and increase profit. With a conference fee of USD 1,500 civil society representation is marginalised and decisions are easily made without consideration of the negative effects mining might have on local communities; such as forced relocation, loss of livelihoods, lack of access to and contamination of water and land, lack of compensation, increased violence and negative health impacts.
In 2010 NCA’s regional Southern Africa programme and partners arranged the first Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI), an annual event arranged side-by-side of the business conference, but with mining-affected communities as the main speakers. At AMIs policy recommendations are agreed on and submitted to duty bearers, and dialogue between rights holders and duty bearers is facilitated. NCA has nurtured the AMI space, which has grown in number of participants, countries and influence. It is no longer a conference, but a strong social movement and a well-known actor in the mining sector. AMI has influenced mining companies to change practices, taken part in developing the African Union’s first “African Mineral Governance Framework” and engaged duty bearers at the highest levels. Mining Indaba’s perception of AMI has changed, from ignoring AMI, via lawsuit threats, to constructive dialogue. Now sustainability is included in the conference programme and in 2018, AMI received 40 free passes to attend the conference, worth USD 60,000. In 2019 community-members, faith leaders and civil society participated in 6 different panel discussions, putting community rights on the agenda.
The first AMI only gathered a handful of participants in Cape Town, but with NCA’s support and regional network, the AMI movement started to grow. In 2011 NCA supported the first national AMI in Tanzania and since then all countries implementing the Resource Governance programme arrange national, provincial and district AMIs. Later countries with no NCA representation arranged AMIs, and now there are national and sub-regional AMIs arranged and funded by civil society groups that do not have a formal relation to NCA, showing that AMI is regarded a relevant arena and advocacy tool for mining affected communities and civil society. The AMIs started as a civil society platform, but as community groups, civil society and faith actors increased their capacity, AMIs have been utilised as advocacy arenas. Through AMI, mining companies and governmental duty bearers have been challenged and duty bearers are now participating at AMIs at all levels, providing rights holders with direct access to duty bearers and an opportunity to hold duty bearers accountable.