• Willemien du Plessis




impacts of mining on women, legal framework, African context, women working as managers, omen working underground, women affected by mining, women in small-scale mining


At a recent colloquium of the University of Cape Town’s Mineral Law in Africa’s initiative the position of gender and mining were discussed. The discussion raised many issues pertaining to women’s position in relation to mining in Africa.
Tapiero states that “worldwide between 80 and 100 million people are directly and indirectly dependent on non-industrial forms of mining for their livelihoods. Of these, an estimated 30% are women.” The same author then indicates that mining carries risks for women as mining may result in a poor distribution of the mining benefits between men and women; it may lead to social disruption, including matters such as domestic violence, loss of agricultural land and environmental damage and pollution. When decisions are made with regard to mining projects, women are not always consulted and they do not have, due to cultural or religious reasons, a say in decision-making, either with regard to employment, or the placing of a mine. There may also be other legal or cultural constraints impacting on the effects that mining may have on women. The author, however, also indicates that “a growing body of evidence indicates that the increasing women’s economic opportunities lead to a higher rate of family savings, greater spending on family nutrition, health and girls’ education and declining household poverty”.
But who are the women who are affected by mining? The literature addressing gender and mining issues deals with a wide array of gender issues. Although there may be many more categories, the following women are identified as those involved in or affected by mining: (a) women in management or executive positions; (b) women in administrative or non-artisan positions; (c) women working underground in mines or with hazardous materials; (d) women involved in small-scale mining and (e) women affected by mining. It seems that it is the last three categories of women that need the most protection from the law.
There are multiple approaches to gender and mining, and multiple issues that one can address from a specific discipline or from an inter-disciplinary approach. One of these approaches could be to establish: (a) the legal framework pertaining to women and mining; (b) to determine the role that women play in mining; or (c) to determine how the law could address the challenges that women face when either affected by mining or being involved in mining. Another approach would be to undertake empirical research and to determine what effects mining has on women. Such a study will necessitate inter-disciplinary team research which is not the purpose of this note. The one approach could, however, not really be divorced from the other as one first has to determine how women are affected by mining and what challenges they experience as a result of mining. One then has to determine which roles they play in relation to mining and then determine the legal framework in relation to mining and gender. Once this is established then it may be considered whether this framework adequately addresses the challenges that women may face. It is immediately acknowledged that gender refers to male and female, and that men and male children may also be affected by mining, but this note will address issues relating to women and mining only.
This note’s aim is therefore to provide a general framework pertaining to the different impacts that mining may have on women, based on studies undertaken by other researchers in disciplines other than law, and to indicate the legal frameworks that need to be considered when these impacts are researched. The hope is that it will inspire teams of researchers to undertake further in-depth multi-disciplinary studies to find solutions to this very complex challenge.
This note will address the legal framework to be considered in an African context and will address the different categories of women affected by mining, namely: women working as managers (in executive positions or administrators), women working underground, women affected by mining and finally women in small-scale mining.


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How to Cite

Willemien du Plessis. (2016). WOMEN, MINING AND THE LAW. Obiter, 37(3). https://doi.org/10.17159/obiter.v37i3.11526