In the mining communities of the developing world, the majority of benefits go to men, while the majority of risks fall upon women.
Says World Bank Mining Adviser John Strongman, "Mining has a gender bias. The benefits such as employment and royalties tend to be captured by men, whereas the negative impacts of social disruption and environmental harm tend to fall most heavily on women and their families."
The series of anecdotes below, culled from various reports and studies on the issue, highlight the gendered nature of mining impacts. What mining companies tout as "benefits" from their projects often do not reach women, and negative impacts are often even worse for women.
In many countries, women are not permitted to own land or hold only restricted land rights . When mines take hold of their land, women often do not receive compensation payments and are excluded from community negotiations with mining companies.
Mining creates very few employment opportunities for women. It displaces farms and other job sectors in which women are often employed. These changes tend to concentrate economic power in the hands of men and increase women's dependence on their husbands or male relatives.
Women who do find work in the mining companies often face severe discrimination.
Women are primarily limited to low-level clerical positions and often face sexual harassment from male coworkers or supervisors. In some countries, they can be fired if they become pregnant.
The loss of female income exacerbates many other social problems common in mining communities. As many mining communities have to deal with increases in alcoholism, prostitution, drugs, and crime, the impact on family life and women is extremely negative. For example:
- Women are disproportionately affected by the spread of HIV/AIDS and domestic violence.
- Environmental contamination from mining -- especially water pollution -- greatly complicates the traditional role of women as providers of food and water to their families.
- Women's roles as caregivers and mothers are complicated by the transience of mine work and severe health impacts of environmental contamination.
For more information:
- International Women and Mining Network
- Oxfam International The Gendered Impacts of Mining
- Oxfam International Report on Women, Mining and Communities
- World Bank Mining's Gender Bias
- Earthrights International Mining, Gender, and the Environment in Burma
- Women from the Yukon Territory Women, Mining, and the Environment
- ActionAid Women farmers group together to combat impact of local mine
- International Center for Research on Women Property Rights
- "Mining the Womb of the Earth: Struggles of Indigenous Women against destructive mining" [PDF]. Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact.