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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s6dURw_wTU
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.

Source:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s6dURw_wTU

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: http://www.care2.com/causes/diamond-mining-leaves-people-and-land-devastated.html#ixzz2POVJwCaK

Links to   other resources Diamond Empire film: https://ejoltdocumentaries.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/the-diamond-empire/


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: http://www.diamondfacts.org/pdfs/media/media_resources/fact_sheets/Diamond_Mining_Environment_Fact_Sheet.pdf


The Greener Diamond: http://thegreenerdiamond.org/pages/about-conflict-diamonds/impact-on-the-environment.php

Blood diamond” regulation system broken   – but where to look for blame? By Khadija Sharife and Nick Meynen, http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=11968

Electronic Waste in Ghana


Title Electronic Waste in Ghana
Director(s) Greenpeace International
Date released (year) 2008
Production company Greenpeace International
Length 16.14mins
Location Ghana
Keywords/tags Toxic waste, dumping, neoliberalism
Link to film http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/poisoning-the-poor-electroni/
Synopsis The latest place where we have discovered   high tech toxic trash causing horrendous pollution is in Ghana. Our analysis   of samples taken from two electronic waste (e-waste) scrap yards in Ghana has   revealed severe contamination with hazardous chemicals.


Boys burning electronic cables and other   electrical components in order to melt off the plastic and reclaim the copper   wiring. This burning in small fires releases toxic chemicals into the   environment.

The ever-growing demand for the latest   fashionable mobile phone, flat screen TV or super-fast computer creates ever   larger amounts of obsolete electronics that are often laden with toxic   chemicals like lead, mercury and brominated flame retardants. Rather than   being safely recycled, much of this e-waste gets dumped in developing   countries. Previously, we have exposed pollution from e-waste scrap yards in China and India. Nigeria has also   been identified as a dumping ground for old electronics.

During our investigation into the shady e-waste trade, we uncovered evidence that e-waste is   being exported, often illegally, to Ghana from Europe and the US. We visited   Ghana to investigate workplace contamination from e-waste recycling and   disposal in the country.

In the yards, unprotected workers, many of   them children, dismantle computers and TVs with little more then stones in   search of metals that can be sold. The remaining plastic, cables and casing   is either burnt or simply dumped Some of   the samples contained toxic metals including lead in quantities as much as   one hundred times above background levels. Other chemicals such as   phthalates, some of which are known to interfere with sexual reproduction,   were found in most of the samples tested.  One sample also contained a   high level of chlorinated dioxins, known to promote cancer.

Dr. Kevin Bridgen, from our science unit,   has visited scrap yards in China, India and Ghana: “Many of the   chemicals released are highly toxic, some may affect children’s developing   reproductive systems, while others can affect brain development and the   nervous system.  In Ghana, China and India, workers, many of them   children, may be substantially exposed to these hazardous chemicals.”

Source: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/poisoning-the-poor-electroni/

Reviews/discussion Greenpeace’s   supporting discussion:

How does it get to   Ghana?

Containers filled with old and often broken   computers, monitors and TVs – from brands including Philips, Canon, Dell,   Microsoft, Nokia, Siemens and Sony – arrive in Ghana from Germany, Korea,   Switzerland and the Netherlands under the false label of “second-hand   goods”. Exporting e-waste from Europe is illegal but exporting old   electronics for ‘reuse’ allows unscrupulous traders to profit from dumping   old electronics in Ghana. The majority of the containers’ contents end up in   Ghana’s scrap yards to be crushed and burned by unprotected workers. Some traders report that   to get a shipping container with a few working computers they must accept   broken junk like old screens in the same container from exporters in   developed countries.

What’s the   solution?

While working computers and mobile phones   can have a new lease of life in some African countries, they create pollution   when thrown away due to the high levels of toxic chemicals they contain. This   is why we are pressuring the biggest electronic companies to   phase out toxic chemicals and introduce global recycling schemes. Both of   these steps are vital to tackle the growing tide of toxic e-waste.

Some companies are making progress towards   taking responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products. However, Philips and Sharp stand out for refusing to accept that they are   responsible for recycling their old products. The stance of these powerful   multinationals is ensuring there will always be a digital divide that they   prefer remains hidden, a dangerous divide with unprotected workers in   developing countries left with the toxic legacy.

Behind the story

Mid-2008   a Greenpeace team including campaigner Kim Schoppink and photographer Kate   Davison went to Ghana to document and gather evidence of what really happens   to our electronic waste.

Source: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/poisoning-the-poor-electroni/

Links to other resources Earth   Times: http://www.earthtimes.org/environment/waste/

Fabrice Babin’s 2011 film on e-waste in Ghana: http://www.javafilms.fr/spip.php?article632

The Story of Electronics : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G49q6uPcwY8&feature=list_other&playnext=1&list=SP77CE8943362CB9B0

Dirty Diamonds


Title Dirty Diamonds – Angola
Director(s) Journeymanpictures
Date released (year) 1996
Production company Journeymanpictures
Length 6 mins
Location Angola
Keywords/tags Diamonds, Angola, mining,   natural resources
Link to film




Angola boasts the most dangerous and illegal diamond mines in the world.

From an aerial view, hundreds of men work like black ants on the crater   ridden landscape. In small groups, bare chested, knee deep in murky water   they seive gravel for hours until they spot the glitter of one tiny diamond.   In town, we interview an illegal trader who compares diamond dealing to the   blood diamond trade in a warzone. He takes out a small paper package from his   trouser leg and slowly unwraps a cluster of uncut jewels. He carries them to   bribe his way out of any difficult situations. The De Beers diamond cartel is   keen to stop the illegal diamond trade. A spokesman maintains that most of   Angola’s diamonds are smuggled out the country and are therefore denied to   the people of Angola. “We would like to develop a first class diamond   field and build a proper mining operation. In this way the country can be   further developed.” Local mining companies depend on private security   firms to guarantee their safety. While filming, bandits with grenade   launchers and machine guns take our reporter by surprise. After much   bargaining, she is finally allowed to leave the area

(Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xw23pTjKf-I&feature=related)

Reviews/discussion Since the Portugese left   Angola in 1975, there’s been no peace in the country. The civil war between   government troops and UNITA has left the country devastated. UNITA didn’t   recognise the result of the elections in 1992 – and so the conflict goes on.   Neither side find it difficult to buy weapons. They’re paid for in diamonds –   the wealth of Angola. The country could be one of the most prosperous in   Africa. It owns the most precious gem, but everyone is helping themselves to   this fortune.The government loses at least 30 million US dollars a month   through the illegal diamond trade. The diamond diggers are protected   sometimes by the army or police – everyone wants to cream something off this   profitable trade. Marion Mayer-Hodahl visits a dangerous illegal diamond   digging area.

Source: http://www.journeyman.tv/?lid=9856&tmpl=transcript

Links to other resources Keith Harmon Snow and Rick Hines: “Blood   Diamond: Doublethink and Deception Over Those Worthless Little Rocks of   Desire,” Z Magazine, June and July 2007, and Blood Diamonds at <http://www.allthingspass.com/journalism.php?catid=48 >.

Rafael Marques, Rinsing the Blood from   Angola’s Diamonds, Oxford University Africa Society, January 26, 2007.

Katanga Business

Title Katanga   Business
Director(s) Thierry Michel
Date released (year) 2009
Production company  
Length 120mins
Location DRC
Keywords/tags Mining, toxic   waste, natural resources, violence
Link to film
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXaqXPeGKOY   (in French)
Synopsis The Congolese province of Katanga is a major supplier   of the world’s gold, copper, and uranium, but precious little of the profit   trickles down to the ordinary folk who live and work there, and multinational   competition has intensified lately with the arrival of Indian and Chinese   interests. Directed by Thierry Michel, this Belgian documentary provides an engrossing   take on neocolonial economics and some of angriest muckraking to hit the   screen since Darwin’s Nightmare (2004), the drama heightened by   larger-than-life personalities on every side of the complex political   equation. In French with subtitles.

Source: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/katanga-business/Film?oid=1511440

Reviews/discussion From PictureNose:

‘Big man’

Gerald Loftus looks at corruption in the Congo…

To lead the mineral-rich Congolese province of   Katanga, you don’t have to be named Moïse. But Moïse Katumbi, the current   governor and “star” of Katanga Business, and Moïse Tshombe, the leader who   tried to break away from newly-independent Congo in 1960, have the French   version of the name “Moses” in common. And this – the ground they rule(d) is   the source of international competition, a contemporary scramble for Africa   over precious cobalt, coltan, tungsten, and plain old copper.

Like the hero of Chinua Achebe’s novel, A Man of   the People, Governor Katumbi is a ‘Big Man’, the kind of African   leader who, as long as he continues to distribute largess to his people,   remains popular. He’s the guy – you guessed it – in the black cowboy hat on   the poster. Katumbi is a sort of reverse Obama; his father was a Jewish exile   from Hitler’s Europe who took refuge and thrived in then Belgian Congo.

Belgian documentary film maker Thierry Michel’s   latest work, recently released in Belgium and France, is a “sort of economic   parable via an industrial saga”, according to the director. Michel knows the   Congo (DRC) well; he’s been making films there on and off for the past 17   years, and shot Katanga Business over five separate trips. Note to self: must   go and rent DVDs of his other Congo films; one of the latest was Mobutu,   King of Zaire (1999).

For francophones, the film’s official website   offers an interview with Michel, where he gives credit to Governor Katumbi   for being a “modernist, extracting agreements from international mining   companies to develop the province’s agriculture,” but at the same time calls   him “an ambivalent figure, a capitalist/populist mix of Silvio Berlusconi and   Hugo Chavez.” Colette Braeckman, Africa correspondent of Le Soir, paints a   lively portrait of the man’s ambiguities here.

In an extensive interview with Fabienne Bradfer of Le Soir,   Thierry Michel expands on his fascinating Governorator:

“He’s a wealthy businessman, who governs like he runs his businesses   (like Berlusconi, he too has TV station and football club). He was elected   because he was very rich; for the Congolese, being rich means he’s less   likely to try to enrich himself and therefore better able to govern the   province. He’s visionary, charismatic, and a communicator.”

But Katanga Business is not a biopic of a provincial   African governor, photogenic as he is. It’s about globalization, capitalism,   and economic colonialism. Thierry Michel turns Chinese wildcat investors,   Belgian holdover industrialists, and Canadian “pension fund” investors into a   rich mix, but none are caricatured as they might be in a Michael Moore film on   similar ground.

The most dignified players – though some of them are   reduced to begging for handouts from “papa” the governor – are the Congolese   miners. Creuseurs or diggers, they try their best to maintain discipline   (it’s their byword) in set-piece confrontations with politicians, employers,   and police. The odds are always against them – anyone would be intimidated by   the armored, helmeted, and masked Congolese police, bearing down on the   workers with tear gas, batons, and bullets.

Hemmed in between Chinese and Western investors,   cajoled by politicians in suits or cudgeled by police looking like Samurai   warriors, the barefooted miners have only one choice: work, for whatever   pittance their masters deign to hand out. The word “slavery” is used more   than once – not by the narrator, but by the men who provide the world what it   needs to keep its mobile phones charged.

In places from Katanga to Kazakhstan,   “business” (often pronounced beeznis with a leering grin), is synonymous with   corruption, exploitation, and destruction. It’s a long way from nostalgic Main Street notions of private   enterprise. In other words, a timely film, one that presents lessons beyond   Lumbumbashi.

Source: http://www.picturenose.com/katanga-business-2009-movie-review.html

Links to other resources Film homepage: http://www.katanga-lefilm.com/

The Great African Scandal

Title The Great   African Scandal
Director(s) Robert Beckford
Date released (year) 2008
Production company Channel 4
Length 47 mins
Location Ghana
Keywords/tags Underdevelopment,   aid, international trade, IMF, neoliberalism
Link to film
Synopsis Academic Robert   Beckford visits Ghana to investigate the hidden costs of rice, chocolate and   gold and why, 50 years after independence, a country so rich in natural   resources is one of the poorest in the world. He discovers child labourers   farming cocoa instead of attending school and asks if the activities of   multinationals, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have actually   made the country’s problems worse. (Excerpt   from video.google.com)

In this thought-provoking   documentary, made with the help of Christian Aid, academic Robert Beckford   undertakes a challenging, emotional journey to Ghana in West Africa.
This is where, two centuries ago, Robert Beckford’s ancestors were seized and   taken as slaves to Jamaica. Now he is making a journey to the land of his   roots to discover the hidden costs of rice, chocolate and gold.

Working alongside local   people, Robert struggles to survive on the average wage of 60p a day. He asks   why, 50 years after independence, this country, which is rich in minerals and   is a stable democracy, is still one of the poorest in the world.

He examines the activities of   multinational corporations, as well as the World Bank and the International   Monetary Fund, to find out whether they have actually made countries like   Ghana worse off. And, most importantly, he asks how we, as consumers and citizens,   can make a difference. Source: http://robertbeckford.co.uk/taxonomy/term/2%2B3

Reviews/discussion Interview with   Robert Beckford, Christian Aid Lunchtime Talks:   http://bassflava.com/mp3/An+African+Scandal-song-604626.html

Interesting thread   of comments and responses at: http://afrospear.com/2009/09/26/the-great-african-scandal/

Links to other resources Robert Beckford’s   homepage: http://robertbeckford.co.uk/node/30