- The impacts of mining on women

While mining has negative impacts on all those who live in the mining
communities in general and those who are affected by the mining
operations, there are distinct impacts and added burdens on women.

The differentiated impacts can be begun to be understood in concrete
situations, such as that faced by a Dayak woman affected by a mine owned
by the company PT-IMK in Indonesia.

"Mrs Satar had a field as large as 10 to 15 hectares on the community's
traditional land. Upon this land, she could harvest enough produce for one
year, in fact sometimes more. With the introduction of the mining into
her community, she lost all but one hectare of her land to the mining
company. Consequently, she had to buy approximately 3 sacks of rice per
month at a cost of Rp39,000 per sack (price at January 1998). In addition,
the mining company's operations polluted the river, which could no longer
be used to meet household needs, and no longer produced fish. Previously,
Satar had cooked fresh fish each day for her family. Now, as a result of
the pollution, she has to buy salted fish. If there is enough money, she
purchases 2 kilos of salted fish a month at Rp15,000 per kilo. To obtain
bathing and drinking water, Satar must walk a long way to a water source
that is not affected by the company's tailings. Satar's livelihood is
further threatened by the loss of her two water buffalos, found dead at
the edge of the contaminated river."

It is also necessary to understand that companies usually enter into
negotiations only with men, excluding women also from the royalties or
compensation payments. They even have little or no control over and access
to any of the benefits of mining developments, especially money and
employment. Thus, women are deprived of their traditional means of
occupation and become more dependent on men, who are more likely to be
able to access and control these benefits.

Large-scale mining entails the replacement of subsistence economies which
have nurtured generations of communities and Indigenous Peoples with a
cash-based economy. The new market-based economy implies a significant
erosion or destruction of traditional values and customs which have been
crucial in sustaining community, tribal, clan and family solidarity and
unity. In such process, women become marginalised since their traditional
roles as food gatherers, water providers, care-givers and nurturers are
very much affected. Economic visibility depends on working in the public
sphere and unpaid work in the home or community is categorised as
"unproductive, unoccupied and economically inactive".

Whereas both men and women had previously been in charge of farming
activities, now men have to go out for a wage, thereby increasing women's
workload and responsibilities, leading to more stress and tensions.
Additionally, the environmental destruction caused by large-scale mining
has also decreased the productivity of the fields and poisoned wildfoods,
marine life, animals. Many women are pushed to enter into the informal
economy to find additional sources of income.

Whilst large-scale mining has limited scope for women's employment, the
small-scale sector absorbs women as contract or bonded labour under highly
exploitative conditions. In India, for example, women's wages are always
less than that of men, safety standards are non-existent, paid holidays
are not allowed even during pregnancy or childbirth, work equipment is not
provided, and there are no toilets or facilities available. Unemployed
women living in mining communities eke out their livelihood by scavenging
on the tailings and waste dumps, often illegally, and suffer from the
constant harassment of company guards, local Mafia and the police. They
are exposed to the physical and sexual exploitation of the mine-owners,
contractors and miners and are at the mercy of local traders when selling
their ores. In addition, women work with toxic, hazardous substances and
suffer from several occupational illnesses including respiratory and
reproductive problems, silicosis, tuberculosis, leukemia, and arthritis.

Alcohol abuse, drug addiction, prostitution, gambling, incest, and
infidelity are increasing in many mining communities. These have worsened
cases of family violence against women, active and often brutal
discrimination in the workplace that is often sanctioned or ignored by
judicial and political institutions. Even men-led workers' organisations
usually do not raise cases of human rights violations against women. The
orientation of discussions between these organisations and mining
companies is directed towards economic issues, such as wage increases,
subsidies and so on.

In sum mining --be it small or large-scale-- is resulting in a large
number of specific impacts on women, who are losing out in almost all
aspects related to the development of this activity. The wealth generated
by mining further pushes women into poverty, dispossession and social

Article based on information from: "The globalisation of mining and its
impact and challenges for women", Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Tebtebba
Foundation (Indigenous Peoples' International Center for Policy Research
and Education), http://www.twnside.org.sg/title/chal-cn.htm ; "Women's
rights undermined", Ingrid Macdonald; "The Polarisation of the People and
the State in the Interests of the Political Economy and Women's Struggle
to Defend their Existence, a critique of mining policy in Indonesia",
Meentje Simatauw; "Labour, love and loss: Mining and the displacement of
women's labour", Kathryn Robinson; Tunnel Vision: Women, Mining and
Communities, Forum Report, November 2002,

For more news and stories on the affects of mining, visit the World Rainforest Movement website at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/deforestation/mining.html