Zim CSOs engage China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals and Chemical Importers and Exporters


June 23, 2023

Compiled by Clarity Sibanda

Sun Lihui, Director of the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals, and Chemicals Importers and Exporters (CCCMC) and Chairman of the Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI), has expressed gratitude to the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, the Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC) and Action Aid-Zimbabwe for convening a dialogue meeting that brought together Civil Society representatives, CCCMC representatives, and communities  who shared their experiences and perspectives on Chinese investments in Zimbabwe’s mining sector. The meeting held on June 18, 2023, in Harare also provided a platform for the communities and CSOs to learn more about the Mediation and Consultation Mechanism for the Mining Industry and Mineral Value Chain developed by the CCCMC and how it can be utilised to foster responsible mining in Zimbabwe.

Chinese investments in the mining sector have been increasing, and these have been witnessed in sectors such as diamonds, gold, granite, chrome, and coal, among others. Due to the global demand in critical minerals for transitioning of economies, Chinese Investments in the critical minerals sector such as lithium has also increased tremendously. CCCMC representative indicated that they have created guidelines and mechanisms for promoting responsible business conduct among Chinese overseas investments in the mining industry and critical minerals sector. Of significance are the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, the Chinese Due Diligence Guidelines for Mineral Supply Chain, adopted through collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the recent Mediation and Consultation Mechanism.

In his opening remarks, ZELA Executive Director Mutuso Dhliwayo expressed his gratitude to the CCCMC delegation represented by Sun Lihui, Dongna Bi, and Rachel Zhou and the mining communities’ representatives while highlighting that such engagements are quite critical because a lack of dialogue in the context of Chinese investments have bred mistrust and animosity amongst the different stakeholders. He added that the Chinese footprint in the mining sector has been increasing, including in the critical minerals sector. However, history is replete with cases where mining, despite being a huge contributor to the gross domestic product, has resulted in huge environmental, social, and cultural human rights implications, especially when there is a lack of oversight. Therefore, it is important to engage with the Chinese investors and create a   complaint handling mechanisms which can be used as vital accountability tools for communities to seek effective redress for rights violations. This would, in turn, promote responsible investments.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Center’s Manson Gwanyanya expressed the need for Chinese mining companies to continuously engage communities. He also gave examples of human rights and environmental abuses associated with mining operations, where local communities bear the brunt of the abuses. Gwanyanya underlined the need for companies to respect human rights.

These sentiments were also shared by Raphael Matika, a youth from Hwange, who emphasized the need for companies to consult communities, engage them, and address the challenges resulting from mining investments. He added that human rights violations, unfair labor practices, and failure to adhere to environmental guidelines all result in hostility between the host communities and the investors. However, he expressed optimism about the mechanism and wanted to know how it could be used by communities.

In response, Sun Lihui, pointed out that these challenges might have been committed by small scale miners, who, sometimes flee government supervision,and this  must be given  great attention.  In response to the question of whether every company is answerable to the guidelines and the mediation and consultation mechanism, he indicated that it is not mandatory for all of companies, as it is a voluntary mechanism.  The CCCMC plans to test the mediation and consultation mechanism, and they are right now looking for 2-3 countries to pilot it, Zimbabwe could be an alternative pilot country.

ZELA Responsible Investments and Business lead, Josephine Chiname, also shared ZELA’s views and perspectives on the proposed procedure for the mediation and consultation mechanism, where she highlighted that there are issues regarding the threshold of evidence required when submitting a complaint. ZELA’s view is that communities should give their testimony, and this should be taken as enough so that procedural requirements do not act as a barrier for communities to have their disputes resolved. The need for putting in place a financial structure that does not burden communities was also highlighted.

The CCCMC, which was visiting Zimbabwe for the first time, and CSOs present indicated that they would continue to engage with companies to respect environmental, social, and cultural rights of communities.

About the Responsible Critical Mineral Initiative (RCI)

The Responsible Critical Mineral Initiative (RCI) is an international cooperation mechanism established voluntarily by upstream and downstream companies (including but not limited to those producing and using raw materials containing cobalt, lithium, nickel, copper, aluminum, manganese, mica, graphite, rare earths, silicon, etc.), related industry organizations and institutions.

About the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals & Chemicals Importers & Exporters (CCCMC)

Founded on September 1st, 1988, China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals & Chemicals Importers & Exporters (CCCMC) is a nationwide and industrial non-profit social organization formed voluntarily by units registered within the territory of the People’s Republic of China according to law and engaged in economic activities in regard to metals & minerals and related products, non-metallic minerals and related products, hardware products, building materials products, petroleum and related products, chemical raw materials and related products, as well as the upstream and downstream industrial chains in the above-mentioned fields. Read more

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