“The problem of mining-induced displacement and resettlement (MIDR) poses major risks to societal sustainability. Unfortunately, no global survey has assessed the scale of MIDR. Available evidence suggests that the problem is significant. Mining displaced 2.55 million people in India between 1950 and 1990. The likelihood that MIDR will be a significant issue increases as eight factors converge—as rich mineral deposits are found in areas with relatively low land acquisition costs (in the global market) that are being exploited with open-cast mining and are located in regions of high population density—especially on fertile and urban lands—with poor definitions of land tenure and politically weak and powerless populations, especially indigenous peoples. MIDR is accompanied by what displacement specialists call the resettlement effect, defined as the loss of physical and non-physical assets, including homes, communities, productive land, income-earning assets and sources, subsistence, resources, cultural sites, social structures, networks and ties, cultural identity and mutual help mechanisms. The effect introduces well-documented risks over and above the loss of land. The loss of land may address only 10-20% of the impoverishment risks known to be associated with involuntary displacement. Investigations into displacement have found nine other potential risks that deeply threaten sustainability; these include joblessness, homelessness, marginalization, food insecurity, loss of common lands and resources, increased health risks, social disarticulation, the disruption of formal educational activities, and the loss of civil and human rights. Failure to mitigate or avoid these risks may generate “new poverty,” as opposed to the “old poverty” that peoples suffered before displacement. Certain groups—especially indigenous peoples, the elderly and women—have been found to be more vulnerable to displacement-induced impoverishment risks. The means by which to avoid grafting new, displacement-induced poverty onto preexisting poverty are known. Forty years of studies and lessons learned in involuntary resettlement provide a rich vein of knowledge and reasonable guidelines and checklists have been developed. Nonetheless, attempts to restore the displaced to their former economic and social conditions have proved ineffective. Under-financing is a key component of their failure. Although people continue to be relocated, the goal of rehabilitation remains exceedingly difficult to achieve, and the preferred goal of sustainable development, where people are better off than they were before resettlement, has seldom been achieved. Under financing emerges from the wrong-headed notion that compensation for losses is sufficient to rehabilitate a displaced economy. Compensation by itself cannot adequately restore and improve the income levels and livelihood standards of people subjected to expropriation and forced displacement. From the operational perspective, compensation—not rehabilitation or sustainable development—becomes the goal rather than a means to help ensure a sustainable outcome. But the key question remains: Who pays for countering the resettlement effect in mining induced displacements and resettlements? At present, mining, financiers and governments are externalizing displacement costs onto the weakest party, the displaced. Concerns over liability occur at three levels, depending on the degree of regularization of
obligations. Some liabilities are widely acknowledged (acknowledged liabilities in Figure 2).
Other liabilities are not currently accepted although scientific research has found them valid
(possible liabilities). A broad, unstable band of probable liabilities falls between the possible
and the acknowledged. Pressures are building from many directions to regularize liabilities
that until now were considered probable and possible liabilities.
It is too early, however, to expect harmonization and the emergence of a detailed industry wide approach. My suggestion—developing involuntary displacement and resettlement
insurance to protect the involuntarily displaced from—impoverishment is probably
politically premature. In the meantime, the inability to cope with the MIDR problem is
delaying projects and generating costly controversies. It is plunging innocent victims who
find themselves “in the way” into new poverty. And governments are inheriting the long term costs.
A MIDR Contingency Clause (MIDR-CC) is proposed as an interim, on-the-ground
solution. The MIDR-CC would be an agreement that all likely MIDR risks be assessed,
goals set, costs estimated, organizational arrangements proposed, and financing secured before
a mining project goes forward. “