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Through sustained dialogue, collaboration, and informed decision-making, Lesotho can navigate the complexities of resource extraction while safeguarding environmental integrity, promoting social inclusion, and fostering economic growth for generations to come, write Liapeng Raliengoane and Motsamai Mokotjo

Lesotho’s Minerals and Mining Policy of 2015 was heralded as a crucial step towards sustainable development, community empowerment, and responsible resource exploitation.

However, despite its adoption, the policy has yet to see effective implementation, leaving stakeholders and affected communities in a state of uncertainty.

The government has grappled with the complexities of managing its mineral resources for decades.

Rich in various minerals, including diamonds, gold, and sandstone, the country has sought sustainable solutions to maximise the benefits of resource extraction while mitigating associated challenges.

This endeavour has involved partnerships with international organisations, extensive policy development, and ongoing dialogue with stakeholders.

By exploring the evolution of Lesotho’s approach to mineral resource management, the role of key policies, challenges encountered, and opportunities for the future, a comprehensive understanding of the country’s mining sector can be attained.

Historically, diamond mining has been a primary economic activity, with Lesotho renowned for producing high-quality diamonds, including large gemstones. Gold mining has also played a role in the country’s mineral sector, along with sandstone quarrying and other smaller-scale operations.

The extraction of these resources holds the potential to contribute substantially to Lesotho’s economic development and reduce dependence on external aid.

Recognising the importance of effective resource management, the government engaged in partnerships with international organisations to enhance its capacity in this area.

One notable collaboration has been with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The partnership aimed to address the challenges surrounding resource extraction and develop sustainable strategies for the mining sector.

Through initiatives such as the National Mining and Minerals Policy (NMMP), Lesotho sought to establish a framework for responsible resource utilisation, taking into account environmental, social, and economic considerations.

The formulation of the National Mining and Minerals Policy marked a significant milestone in Lesotho’s efforts to manage its mineral resources effectively. Initiated through collaboration between the government and UNECA, the NMMP aimed to provide a comprehensive framework for regulating the mining sector.

Key objectives included promoting transparency, maximising economic benefits for local communities, and ensuring environmental sustainability. Through extensive consultation with stakeholders, including mining companies and civil society organizations, the policy sought to address diverse interests and concerns.

Building on the foundation laid by the NMMP, the government took a decisive step forward with the adoption of the Minerals and Mining Policy in 2015. This policy represented a culmination of collaborative efforts and reflected inputs from various stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society.

By incorporating provisions aligned with broader national development plans, such as the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) and Vision 2020, the Minerals and Mining Policy 2015 aimed to harmonize mining activities with broader socio-economic objectives.

One of the notable features of the Minerals and Mining Policy was its emphasis on inclusivity and consultation. Recognising the importance of engaging all stakeholders in the decision-making process, the government ensured that the policy development process was transparent and participatory.

Translation of policy documents into local languages facilitated engagement with communities across Lesotho’s ten districts, enabling broader participation and ensuring that the policy reflected the needs and aspirations of all citizens.

The Minerals and Mining Policy 2015 was designed to align with regional and continental frameworks, recognising the country’s position within broader geopolitical contexts. The policy incorporated principles outlined in the Africa Mining Vision, a continental roadmap for leveraging mineral resources for socio-economic development.

There’s also, alignment with regional protocols such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mining Protocol which underscored the country’s commitment to regional cooperation and integration in the mining sector.

Despite the formulation and adoption of the Minerals and Mining Policy 2015, challenges persist in translating policy objectives into concrete actions. One significant hurdle has been the lack of legislative backing for the policy, rendering it a non-binding document without legal force.

The absence of enforceable regulations has limited the effectiveness of the policy in guiding mining activities and ensuring compliance with its provisions.

The enactment of the Minerals and Mining Policy 2015 into law is essential to provide a robust regulatory framework for the mining sector. Legislation would establish clear guidelines, rights and obligations for all stakeholders, enhancing transparency, accountability, and legal certainty.

By codifying the policy into law, Lesotho can address longstanding issues such as royalty payments, environmental protection, and community engagement, laying the groundwork for sustainable resource management.

The Lesotho Mining Indaba Khotla represents an important opportunity for stakeholders to engage in constructive dialogue on key issues facing the mining sector. Participants, including government officials, parliamentarians, community representatives, and the private sector, can exchange ideas, share experiences, and explore avenues for collaboration.

Central to discussions should be the imperative of enacting the Policy into law, thereby translating policy objectives into tangible legal provisions.

One of the challenges highlighted by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Report on the Consolidated Financial Statements of the Government of Lesotho for Three Years 2013/14; 2014/15; 2015/2016 and Other Incidental Findings relates to royalty collection in the mining sector.

The Mines and Minerals Act of 2005 stipulates a 10 percent royalty on mining companies’ profits, yet implementation has been inconsistent.

Section 60(1) of the Act grants the minister discretionary powers to determine royalty amounts, leading to concerns regarding transparency and accountability in royalty collection. Addressing these challenges requires legislative reforms to establish clear guidelines and mechanisms for royalty assessment and collection.

Enhancing governance and accountability mechanisms is essential to address the challenges facing Lesotho’s mining sector effectively. Transparency in licensing, permitting, and revenue management processes can foster trust among stakeholders and minimize opportunities for corruption.

Strengthening institutional capacity, including regulatory agencies responsible for overseeing the mining sector, is crucial to ensure effective implementation of policies and regulations.

Lesotho can draw lessons from international experiences in mineral resource management to inform its policy and legislative reforms. Best practices from countries with similar resource endowments and governance challenges can provide valuable insights into effective strategies for promoting sustainable development in the mining sector.

Collaboration with international partners, including multilateral organisations and donor agencies, can facilitate knowledge exchange and capacity-building initiatives.

The journey towards sustainable resource management in the mining sector is characterised by collaboration, policy development and ongoing challenges. The formulation and adoption of the Minerals and Mining Policy 2015 represented significant strides in articulating the country’s vision for responsible resource utilisation.

However, translating policy objectives into actionable legislation remains a critical priority to ensure effective governance and accountability.

The Lesotho Mining Indaba Khotla offers a unique opportunity for stakeholders to reaffirm their commitment to advancing the mining sector’s development agenda.

By enacting the policy into law and addressing challenges such as royalty collection and governance, the country can unlock the full potential of its mineral resources for the benefit of its people.

Through sustained dialogue, collaboration, and informed decision-making, the country can navigate the complexities of resource extraction while safeguarding environmental integrity, promoting social inclusion and fostering economic growth for generations to come.

Liapeng Raliengoane and Motsamai Mokotjo

By Editor