Women in low income countries are disproportionately affected by the impacts of mining – but what policy responses are these women calling for? And does Australian corporate accountability regulation sufficiently meet these demands?
These were the questions that we were seeking to answer through ActionAid Australia recent report, Women’s Vision for Reform: an agenda for corporate accountability in Australia’s mining sector.
Issues of mining and its impacts on local communities, particularly in low income countries, has long been an area of research by civil society organisations and academics. With this report, however, we attempted to do things differently by being grounded first and foremost by the experiences, research, and policy demands of women in mining-affected communities and their organisations.
We particularly drew on the work of two key organisations operating in Southern Africa – Women Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA) and WoMin – as well as literature from a range of other feminist scholars and groups.
This report sheds new light on the impact on women and girls of Australia’s significant global mining presence, and what the Australian Government should do. It found that:
- Women and girls bear the brunt of negative impacts associated with extractive industries.
All members of a community are affected by mining operations, but research and case studies clearly show that it is women and girls who bear the brunt of negative consequences. This may be particularly felt by women facing pre-existing inequalities or levels of exclusion.
Our report categorised these effects and found that the gendered impacts of mining include:
- increases in gender-based violence due to social disruption and influxes of male mine workers;
- other health and safety concerns such as increased HIV rates and respiratory illnesses;
- food and water insecurity due to relocation or environmental degradation and pollution;
- a loss of power and authority due to exclusion from decision-making, and;
- an increased in unpaid labour, for example due to women take on caring responsibilities for those in the community suffering health impacts from the mine.
It is also worth noting that mining may be further linked to increases in women’s unpaid labour. Foregone government revenue due to illicit financial flows and tax avoidance by mining companies erodes the ability of states to provide adequate public services, such as health and education, which are essential for achieving gender equality.
Women in low income countries are also disproportionately impacted by climate change, which is caused by the extraction and burning of coal, oil, and gas.
2. Women’s organisations are calling for regulation of mining companies
Our report found that organisations of women affected by mining are calling for stronger regulation of the extractive industries. It identified five key demands:
- Better access to remedy and justice for harms experienced by women and their communities.
- Support for the development of an international legally binding treaty on business and human rights to address corporate abuse.
- The development of a legal requirement that mining companies conduct human rights due diligence to help prevent company involvement in human rights violations.
- Better access to information including on the payments made to host governments.
- Cessation of government funding and support for fossil fuel projects.
3. Australia is lagging far behind the rest of the world when it comes to regulating its mining companies
Unfortunately, when we compared Australia to other OECD countries with a large footprint of mining companies operating overseas, we found that Australia had either insufficient or obstructive policies on all of the five demands:
It’s not a promising picture, but the vision for reform is clear – which is why ActionAid Australia is campaigning for greater accountability of our mining sector overseas.
What can you do?