Equality in the extractives industry: ALSF, International Women in Mining, and Adam Smith International launch high-level event at Mining Indaba 2018

Published: 02/08/2018

With the aim of focusing the extractive industry’s attention on gender diversity, the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF), Adam Smith International, and International Women in Mining (IWIM) organized a high-level event on the margins of the African Mining Indaba 2018.

The gathering in Cape Town on February 6 introduced gender-proactive legislation to its audience and highlighted the manner in which African governments and international mining companies are pushing for increased female participation in the extractives sector. While progress in the mining sector has been slow-coming and hard-won, the panel discussion aimed to demonstrate the effectiveness of well-crafted mining regulations and codes in shrinking the gender disparities which continue to affect African economies, communities, and individuals.

Under the direction of Wendy Treasure, Director of Research and Academia for IWIM and the session’s organizer, the event unfolded across three distinct phases: presentation, panel discussion, and a breakout session of workshop groups. Underscoring the shared ALSF-IWIM vision of gender-conscious mining laws, Treasure presented a collection of policies and legislative clauses which seek to infuse considerations of gender diversity in all mining-related endeavors. Using these legislative proposals as a prompt, Treasure launched a panel discussion which explored the impact – positive and negative – of legal frameworks which target gender gaps in the industry. Finally, the event’s participants and panelists broke out into small groups in order to draft and compare their own legislation.

“In some countries, women are still prohibited from working underground or on mine sites. Although the number of women in mining has been increased due to equal opportunity laws and measures such as the South African Mining Charter, legal requirements to incorporate women in mining do not guarantee equal treatment of women,” Treasure explained.

“Mining can affect women at every level: from direct employment, to service provision, to women living and working in the host communities surrounding the mine,” said Julia Baxter, head of the Mining, Oil and Gas Governance practice at Adam Smith International.

But tackling inequalities in the extractives industry is not an insurmountable task. “Through changes in policy and practice, we can push for transformative gender outcomes. Although gender issues have not traditionally been prioritized, there is growing momentum across the spectrum of stakeholders in the industry to not only recognise the challenge, but to proactively respond. Through our work at ASI we see this appetite for change increasing daily,” Baxter added.

The event’s panel discussion benefitted from the presence of experts in the extractives field, including Claire McMaster, a former Chairperson of Women in Mining South Africa (WIMSA); Martin Ayisi, a drafter of the Kenyan Mining Act; Julia Baxter, and Wendy Treasure.

Despite enjoying sustained commercial growth in recent years, the global mining industry will soon face a looming skills gap. Alongside this trend, industry experts have observed that women are disproportionately underrepresented in the mining sector. In this context, the empowerment of women is not only a moral imperative, it has also become an economic necessity.