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Hold De Beers Accountable


Title Hold De Beers Accountable
Director(s) African Renaissance
Date released   (year) 2011
Production   company African Renaissance
Length 3   MINS
Location Cape,   South Africa
Keywords/tags Mining, community, natural resources, diamonds
Link to film
Synopsis Short   advocacy film documenting community issues in the Western Cape, around the   impacts of diamond mining undertaken by De Beers.
Reviews/discussion “Halt the sale of De   Beers operations until they fix our area”, says Cape West Coast   community.

The imminent sale of De Beers’ diamond mining operations on the Cape West   Coast must be halted until full disclosure and proper consultation with all   affected parties has taken place, says the community of Hondeklipbaai.

The department of Mineral Resources (DMR) is expected to make a decision on   the approval of the amended environmental management programme, and the   transfer of mining rights to Tranx Hex, within weeks. The community launched   an awareness campaign this week, to urge DMR to postpone their decision.

Speaking at a media briefing in Cape Town, Hondeklipbaai community leader   David Markus said the sale cannot be allowed to continue until they were   assured that the companies would honour their obligations to rehabilitate the   area.

“We make an urgent call on the DMR to hold these companies to account   and to not forget the communities that are directly affected. Too often big   mining companies exploit the country’s natural resources without undoing the   damage they cause”, said Markus.

He was speaking at the launch of two documentary videos in which the direct   damage to the Hondeklipbaai area can be seen. The community is on the West   Coast of South Africa, approximately 300 kms outside Cape Town.

Markus was supported by the Bench Mark Foundation at the briefing. Bench Mark   Foundation earlier this year asked De Beers Consolidated Mines to make   substantial revisions to the Environmental Management Programme Report which   will become the only legal tool to prevent a lasting negative legacy from   diamond mining in Namaqualand.

“The area in Hondeklipbaai is rich in biodiversity, with some species of   plants and animals that are not see anywhere else in the world.

“This area must be protected and conserved, and we’re not convinced that   the current plans will not leave the area exposed to more risks. Their budget   for this kind of repair work is wholly inadequate, and it is the people of   Hondeklipbaai that will end up paying for it, for generations to come,”   said Markus.


From Andreas Spath, October 14, 2011:

‘For   many people, diamonds have lost much of their sparkle in recent years. The   knowledge that so-called blood or conflict diamonds have been used to finance   some of Africa’s most murderous wars and civil conflicts has made it   difficult to look at the gems as objects of beauty with which to decorate our   bodies.

The   appalling working conditions and human rights abuses associated with some   diamond mining operations don’t make matters any easier either. But even in   situations where diamonds are mined legally by internationally respected,   supposedly law-abiding companies, the impact on local communities and the   environment can be devastating. De Beers’ Namaqualand Mines on the West   Coast of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province are a good example of this.

De   Beers started mining diamonds in this area in 1927. Gem quality stones are   found here in “alluvial” and “placer” deposits — former gravel beaches and   stream channels where the diamonds were dropped by rivers that scoured them   from kimberlite pipes located hundreds of kilometers inland and carried them   towards the sea millennia ago.

By the   end of the 20th century, De Beers had extracted some 31 million carats of   diamonds from its Namaqualand Mines located along a 150 kilometer stretch of   coastline by strip mining parts of the land to a depth of about 40 meters.   With profitability falling and the downturn of the global economy, operations   were suspended in 2010 and in May of this year De Beers announced the sale of   the mines to a much smaller local diamond mining company called Trans Hex.

Clearly   De Beers has made a lot of money during their more than 80 years of   excavating diamonds here, but the legacy they have left for local communities   is one of crushing poverty and a devastated landscape. In this short video   clip from Green Renaissance, Dawid Markus, a community   leader in the small town of Hondeklipbaai, outlines their struggles:

  Geographically isolated, Hondeklipbaai has around   1,000 inhabitants and a crippling unemployment rate of 80%. In the past, many   families relied very heavily on work at the mines, but nowadays there are   precious few job opportunities of any kind left.

The   community has lodged an official claim for the land on which the mines were   established, which they consider to be their ancestral heritage. They’ve   objected to the sale of the mines, saying there can be no question of   transferring ownership when there is an existing dispute over whose land it   is in the first place.

De   Beers’ operations have left the land in an appalling condition. Mining   activities have left an area the size of approximately 2,000 football fields   disturbed and un-rehabilitated. Although this region is very arid, it forms   part of the Succulent Karoo Biodiversity Hotspot, one of 42 areas that are   internationally recognized for their rich variety in flora and fauna.

This is   a very special and fragile habitat that is home to a large number of endemic   plant species which occur nowhere else on the planet and 45 of which are   threatened with extinction as a result of the mining. It is also the site of   one of the world’s largest arid estuarine systems.

Under   South African law, once a mine is closed down, companies are obliged to   provide the financial and other resources to ensure that disturbed areas are   returned to a state that is equivalent to or better than it was before the   mining started. They are also required to contribute to the social security   and development of the communities they leave behind once they close shop,   ensuring that alternative land uses are found and employment opportunities   are created.

Local   inhabitants like Dawid Markus, together with labor unions and environmental   organizations like Conservation South Africa, the Bench Marks Foundation and the Centre for Environmental   Rights have raised grave concerns that De Beers is attempting to avoid   these legal obligations by selling off the mines to Trans Hex. They question   Trans Hex’s financial and technical capacity to fulfill these obligations and   point out that Trans Hex has a very poor record when it comes to   environmental rehabilitation of their existing mines in the area.

It’s   imperative that De Beers, a hugely profitable international corporation, is   held to account for the environmental damage it has wrought in this area and   that they return it to a sustainable ecological condition as is their   obligation by law.’

Read more:

Links to   other resources Diamond Empire film:


Madihlaba, T. The Fox in the Henhouse: the environmental   impact of diamond mining on communities in South Africa. In McDonald, D.   (ed.) Environmental Justice in South Africa, University of Cape   Town Press, CT, pp.156-167


Diamond Mining and the Environment Factsheet:


The Greener Diamond:

Blood diamond” regulation system broken   – but where to look for blame? By Khadija Sharife and Nick Meynen,


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