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Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts of Mining inBotswana: A Case Study of the Selebi-Phikwe Copper-Nickel Mine

Bismarck Kwaku Asare
M. B. K. Darkoh


The overall aim of the paper+ is to examine the operations of the Copper-Nickel Mine in Selebi-Phikwe and assess its socio-economic and environmental impacts. The specific objectives are to assess the socio-economic impacts of the mine on the local people and examine its environmental effects on soil, water resources, vegetation cover and air quality in and around Selebi-Phikwe. The paper is presented under the broad hypothesis that the Copper-Nickel Mine in Selebi-Phikwe is having deleterious impact on the people and the local environment. To be able to achieve the above objectives, a number of relevant research methods were used, which included primary and secondary data collection. This was done through questionnaires, documentary search, field observations and key informant discussions with relevant individuals, groups and institutions.

The major findings of the study show that the presence of the mine has led to a rapid growth of the population through migration, which has outstripped the ability and capacity of the town's social services such as housing, to cope with the surging tide of migrants. The result has been the proliferation of squatter settlements at the periphery. Also, important are the effects of air pollution from the mine on human health, soil, water and vegetation in the area. Another effect is the scarcity of land for the development of settlement, as about 40 hectares of land cannot be developed for human settlement due to pollution in the area. The mine is faced with financial difficulties, which have limited its ability to meet environmental quality standards and also to extend assistance to the community within which it operates. There is also no direct linkage between the management of the mine and the community on environmental issues. Socio-economic benefits such as the development of social and economic infrastructure, manufacturing and construction industries, commercial and public sector activities have improved significantly, as the government's commitment to diversify the local economy is high. Employment creation and generation from the various sectors including the mine have improved significantly but the income levels of the people are generally low.

On the basis of the findings, it is recommended that there should be an independent medical health team to carry out health impact research, comprehensive socio-economic and environmental impact assessment of the mine, to initiate regular community and institutional consultations and set up an independent air quality monitoring team. The mine should explore viable markets, train its employees, diversify and ensure cleaner production and incorporate a management system for sustainable development. The government should enact a legislative instrument that empowers local communities to actively participate in environmental issues that affect them directly.

Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review (EASSRR) Vol. XVII No. 2 June 2001, pp. 1-42

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eISSN: 1684-4173
print ISSN: 1027-1775