Latest Developments, February 7

In the latest news and analysis…

French exit strategy
Reuters reports that France is calling for UN peacekeepers to take over from the “African-led military mission” in Mali by April:

“According to diplomats at the United Nations, the Security Council is looking at adopting a resolution at the end of February or early March to replace the current African mission under the United Nations.
It would then take 45-60 days to ‘re-hat’ them as U.N. forces, which would involve a reduction of their number, the diplomats said.

French sources said the exact role of French troops in Mali under a U.N. mandate would have to be defined.”

Alternative Mining Indaba
The Daily Maverick’s Rebecca Davis writes that South Africa’s annual mining mega-convention, the Mining Indaba, is being accused of “deliberately excluding any potentially oppositional voices, like those of civil society or – crazy idea – miners”:

“A venture now in its fourth year, the [Alternative Mining Indaba] aims to give voice to mining’s critics, and members of mining-affected communities. Made up of a collective of NGOs and faith-based organisations, the impetus for the initiative came from Tanzania, where mining communities complained of toxic effects on health. ‘For 18 years the Mining Indaba has been meeting and talking about dividing up mineral resources, but there is no representation of people that live in these areas and are most seriously inconvenienced,’ Mandla Hadebe, programme manager for the Economic Justice Network, told the Daily Maverick.
The group of protestors carried signs bearing the words ‘Remember the slain of Marikana’, ‘No To Tax Dodgers’, and ‘If It’s Not Okay In Canada, It’s Not Okay In Africa!’ ”

Sharing the wealth
Bloomberg reports that Zambia’s state-controlled investor is calling on foreign mining companies such as Vedanta and Glencore to contribute higher dividends:

“Zambia, Africa’s biggest copper producer, privatized its mining industry between 1996 and 2001, maintaining minority stakes ranging from 10 percent to 21 percent in the companies, which it holds through ZCCM. The degree to which the country benefits from its copper resources has become a point of political contention, with the government accusing mining companies of avoiding as much as $2 billion a year in tax.
ZCCM wants the companies in which it has shareholdings to alter their dividend policies to improve transparency and increase payouts, [ZCCM CEO Mukela] Muyunda said in the Jan. 31 interview. He said dividends are the last priority for some companies, and this ‘doesn’t work for us.’ ”

Missed opportunity
Global Witness argues the European Commission’s proposed new legislation on financial crime does not go far enough in two key areas:

“Criminals currently find it easy to abuse European companies to hide their identity and therefore their assets. ‘Who owns and controls European companies should not be secret,’ said Robert Palmer, campaigner at Global Witness. ‘The names of the ultimate, beneficial, owners should be made public.’ A European Commission study found that public registries of the beneficial owners of companies would be more cost effective than other options.
Instead, under the Commission’s proposal, companies will only be required to know themselves who their ultimate owners are. This will be of limited help.

The proposal does not do enough to tackle professionals that facilitate tax evasion. ‘The Commission proposal allows bankers, lawyers and accountants who facilitate tax evasion to get away with it. They should face money laundering charges for this insidious activity which costs developing countries billions every year’ said Alex Marriage, Policy and Outreach Analyst at [the European Network on Debt and Development].”

Open secret
Gawker’s Adrian Chen tears into some of America’s most respected news organizations for decisiding not to report on a drone base in Saudi Arabia for more than a year after learning about it:

“In the case of the Saudi drone base, the Times and the Post weren’t protecting a state secret: They were helping the CIA bury an inconvenient story.
Reading the Times and Post stories on the Saudia Arabia drone base used by the CIA to assassinate American cleric Anwar al-awlaki in Yemen, one is left with the impression that its existence had become known for the first time today. In fact, the Times of London reported 18 months ago that the CIA was ‘launching daily missions with unmanned Predator aircraft from bases in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates.’ ”

Not budging
Inter Press Service reports that the World Bank is standing by its forestry policies despite both internal and external criticism:

“ ‘The allocation of large logging concessions, millions of hectares, to mostly foreign companies is still the prevailing model in many countries in the Congo Basin to manage forests,’ Susanne Breitkopf, a Washington-based senior political adviser on forest and climate with Greenpeace International, told IPS, referring to the vast tropical rainforests that cover six countries in Central Africa.
‘That clashes with local use by communities, and economically the local communities are not benefitting from this. As it turns out, these are often low-paid, low-quality jobs without contracts. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we found that over time local communities are often poorer than when the companies arrive.’ ”

History matters
Based on his experiences at last month’s World Economic Forum, Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz writes that the global financial crisis has reduced the West’s power but has not necessarily changed how the rest of the world feels towards it:

“In response to one development expert’s heartfelt despair that unfair trade treaties and unfulfilled promises of aid have cost the developed countries their moral authority, [a mining company executive from a developing country] retorted: ‘The West never had any moral authority.’ Colonialism, slavery, the splintering of Africa into small countries, and a long history of resource exploitation may be matters of the distant past to the perpetrators, but not so to those who suffered as a result.”

Force majeure
Mining.com reports that uranium supplies are under threat due to a huge storm in Kazakhstan and unrest in the Sahel:

“State-owned Kazatomprom has since reported that operation of the affected uranium mines has been halted, and that repair of the power transmission lines could take anywhere between one to five months. Analysts estimate that the power outage could lead to a shortfall in uranium supply of up to 21 million pounds.

Areva’s two uranium operations in Niger have an estimated total output of 10.9 million pounds of uranium this year, much of which could be disrupted if conflict spreads from Mali to Niger, where France has already taken the precaution of dispatching special forces soldiers and helicopters.”

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