Protect mines

Protect mines

IT would appear that the row between Storm Mountain Diamonds (SMD) and villagers in Kao is set to ramble on with no immediate solution in sight.
At the centre of the dispute is what appears to be a “crisis of expectations” on the part of the villagers.
Despite SMD, which operates Kao Mine, going out of its way to assist and empower the villagers, a small clique in Kao still feels hard-done by the mine.
The villagers are accusing the mine of reneging on certain promises to improve their lot. They accuse the mine of failing to provide them with ventilated pit toilets and damaging their homes and farmlands.

They also accuse the mine of failing to build them roads.
That is truly unfortunate.
SMD has not taken these attacks while lying down. It has come out guns blazing in defending its own turf.
The mine accuses a local civil society organisation, the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), of instigating the disturbances at the mine, a charge the TRC has denied.
SMD says it is a responsible mining company that has conducted its affairs with utmost integrity.

It also says it pays its fair share of taxes to the Lesotho Revenue Authority and has created thousands of jobs for Basotho.
It is unfortunate that the ruckus at Kao Mine has been allowed to go on for months. It must now be brought to a swift end.
The Ministry of Mines and the government as a whole must now intervene and mediate between the mine and the villagers.

We must hasten to add that in our opinion, it is not the responsibility of the mines operating in Lesotho to build roads and other amenities such as toilets for villagers.
That responsibility squarely lies on the shoulders of central government.

It would therefore be mischievous for any Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) to accuse any mine in Lesotho of exploiting villagers.
Besides, to expect mines that are operating in Lesotho to fund social programmes such as building roads, would amount to “double taxation”.

SMD and many other mines operating in Lesotho are already paying their fair share of tax through Corporate Income Tax. They are already being taxed enough.
Of course such mining companies can assist communities in which they do business but such assistance is not mandatory.
The villagers in Kao and those in civil society need to be thoroughly schooled on this aspect.

The mining companies have not only created thousands of meaningful jobs for the locals but have gone out of their way to support communities in which they operate. That is not in dispute.
The coalition government, led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, was swept into power on the back of lavish promises that it would pursue investor-friendly policies and create jobs for Basotho.
It must live up to its electoral promises by protecting foreign investors so that we keep the few jobs available going.

It would be a tragedy if SMD, and other mining companies in Lesotho, decide to walk away because they felt they were not receiving the protection from the government that they deserve.
The mining ministry must therefore engage the villagers in robust discussions and educate them on the role as well as rights of foreign investors.
They must also disabuse them on their warped culture of entitlement which so often stands in the way of progress.

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