Skip to main content

Ethiopian News Main Image

New reports reveal that human rights violations and environmental contamination persist at MIDROC’s Lega Dembi gold mining site and the state’s Omo Kuraz sugar projects.

The Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations (CEHRO) has published two case studies on conditions in these places with funding from the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and technical assistance from Alert International.

‘Challenges and Opportunities of Enabling Business and Human Rights Agenda: The Case of MIDROC Lega Dembi Mine’ alleges air, water, and soil contamination in and around the mine poses a serious risk to the environment, livestock, and human lives in the area.

The study reveals the use of mercury and cyanide at Lega Dembi and calls for an independent body to conduct an environmental impact assessment and look into “the type and standard of the chemicals that MIDROC and other small scale and artisanal miners are using right now.”

The research indicates increased incidence of respiratory disease and birth defects in the area, in Oromia’s Guji Zone, where local communities remain unable to access the remedies to the damages and deprivations they have been exposed to for so long.

– Advertisement –

Officials from the Ministry of Mines and Oromia Mining Development Authority as well as MIDROC senior executives based in Addis Ababa and Shakiso have all stated the firm is living up to all of the financial duties, including the CDF, expected of it by law.

“If the company is paying all the financial duties expected from it, why was it unable to see the socio-economic change or improvement in the community surrounding the MIDROC gold mine?” asks the report.

The research team “left no stone uncovered” in its search for the answer.

Neither the Ministry nor the Authority were willing to provide the team with information about how royalties or the CDF from MIDROC have been rechanneled to the affected local communities, according to the report.

Researchers found local development around the mine is very poor and residents lack access to clean water and normal schools, while roads and other key infrastructure is absent. The report reveals that people and livestock are forced to use toxic contaminated water from the Lega Dembi project’s tail dam.

The report acknowledges that MIDROC has made some improvements to its operations since it was relicensed. For instance, the firm has begun wetting the ground in its mines to reduce the emission of harmful dust into the air.

MIDROC’s Lega Dembi mine used to produce 4.5 tons of gold annually before its license was suspended in 2018. Full scale mining operations at the site resumed in March 2021.

The report reveals that MIDROC management argued the high mercury levels near the mine were present before the conglomerate gained the concession in 1997 and stated the company has built roads in the area. MIDROC executives do, however, admit to using cyanide at the mine.

According to the report, the findings of research and studies conducted in and around the Lega Dembi site over the last few years have been kept out of public view.

The list includes an environmental assessment conducted by AAU Business Enterprise Plc in March 2018, community health studies carried out by the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) and the Ministry of Mines, and further research conducted by teams from Bule Hora and Dilla universities. An MoU between MIDROC and the Oromia Mining Development Authority was also never made public.

The report highlights the exclusion of local communities from jobs, a fall in crop yields, and hundreds of livestock deaths due to toxic contaminants.

“MIDROC did not have a good track record of community engagement due to the non-participatory, centralized, top-down administrative approach,” states the report.

“After it was relicensed, MIDROC improved on a number of things but still the local community at Lega Dembi has reservations. Our findings recommend still other mechanisms are required to satisfy the local communities’ demands,” said Beresa Abera, program manager at CEHRO.

The Consortium organized a forum on business and human rights, on April 25, 2024.

The second case study focused on the state-run Omo Kuraz sugar projects also revealed a wide range of human rights violations at the estates in the Omo River basin.

A significant number of indigenous communities displaced to make way for the sugar projects have yet to receive any compensation, according to the report.

Beresa told The Reporter the communities of south Omo have been especially looked over.

“The government promised them a lot when the project was launched,” he said. “But after they were displaced from their lands, none of it materialized.”

Beresa explained the government is demanding the displaced people present title deeds to their land in order to receive compensation.

“They are pastoralists; they do not have title deeds to the land. The deeds could have been issued before the project [took off]. Because of these disagreements, there have been conflicts around the sugar project,” said Beresa.

The website of the state-owned Ethiopian Sugar Industry Group (formerly the Sugar Corporation) says more than 53 billion birr had been spent on the development of four sugar factories in Omo Kuraz by June 2022.

The website details that 1.14 million birr had been paid out in compensation for pastoralists whose beehives and crops were affected by the coffer dam and canal construction work in the area. Paradoxically, more than three million birr was spent on organizing public discussions to raise awareness on the benefits of sugar development.

“Getting a business license alone is not sufficient to start businesses. Social licenses are also necessary. Society must consent. Almost all businesses, especially in mining, have no social license. Our findings indicate this,” said Beresa, during the CEHRO conference. “No company in Ethiopia has conducted human rights due diligence except the Tobacco Enterprise. The company-community relationship is very weak in Ethiopia. Community must be considered as a business stakeholder. CSR and human rights due diligence policies are just basic business compliance. It must be voluntary. Otherwise, regulators must enforce them.”

“Access to remedy is non-existent in Africa in general. Whenever there is violation of human rights by businesses, there must be remedy mechanisms for victims. This is lacking in Ethiopia, according to our studies. The case studies are helpful to make our future works evidence-based,” said Ojot Miru (PhD), east Africa representative of the Danish Institute for Human Rights. “We are also working with the AAU center for human rights and supporting the NAP preparation in Ethiopia, alongside UNDP, CEHRO and others.”

Responding to the concerns and questions raised during the forum, Awel Sultan, department head of National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) at the Ministry of Justice, said work is underway to address the impacts of businesses on human rights.

He observes the novelty of the concept of business and human rights in Ethiopia poses the biggest challenge.

“The government bears the responsibility,” said Awel. “We’re preparing the necessary legal frameworks to ensure business and human rights.”

The department has submitted a draft National Action Plan (NAP) to the Council of Ministers, according to Awel. In Africa, only Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria have NAP so far. Ethiopia a

“Ethiopia accepted NAP after the UN recommended it in 2019, when Ethiopia presented its state report on human rights to the UN during the third round meeting. The UN recommended a separate NAP dedicated to business and human rights. Ethiopia accepted and now we are preparing it. Today’s meeting is the first workshop on preparation of Ethiopia’s business and human rights NAP,” said Awel.

“Our approach is first to prevent human rights violations by businesses from happening. If we cannot prevent, must mitigate, and reduce the impact. If the impact happens, we must compensate. For all this, legal frameworks and standards are required. We are preparing them,” said Awel.

“Business and human rights programs are essential to build the peace economy. In a lot of African countries where we work, businesses are affected by conflicts. Large scale businesses are especially prone to conflict threats. We see this in Ethiopia, Kenya and other places. For instance, renewable energy projects, mining projects and other projects established in pastoralist areas, are often affected by contests and by conflicts. There is concrete evidence that conflicts are interlinked with how the businesses operate. This is why we consider the peace economy as a critical program area. Businesses need to respond to the needs at local levels. If done the right way, businesses can foster better growth, and strong bonds with communities,” said Emmy Auma Odero, Alert Inernational’s country director for Kenya and Horn of Africa.

#Report #Implicates #MIDROC #State #Sugar #Enterprise #Human #Rights #Violations

Source link


Author admin

More posts by admin

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.