Despite being a major source of employment, exports, and tax revenues, mining areas are often sites of protests, riots, and other forms of social conflict: between 2010 and 2013, South African police recorded over 10,000 crowd incidents near commercial mining sites. The most common explanation for the protests is that mining generates grievances (for example, to environmental degradation, crime, or resettlement), which erupt into costly social conflict when unaddressed. Though many of these harms could have potentially been prevented by effective government regulation, even well-written environmental or social obligations are often flouted in contexts where regulators lack the capacity or will to monitor industry. Civil society groups in South Africa have tried to fill this enforcement gap, but compiling evidence on thousands of mines spread across every province far exceeds their capacity. Researchers are assessing whether monitoring by citizens and civil society can be aggregated via mobile platform to transmit information to industry and regulators. They aim to identify whether this innovation can this improve the resolution or prevention of grievances related to mining activity and whether addressing grievances mitigates the risk of social conflicts in communities affected by commercial mining. This work will also assess what drives reporting by citizens and responsiveness by companies, and how the resolution of grievances affects citizens’ attitudes. Originally a scoping study, this project has transitioned to the piloting phase and may ultimately move to a full-scale evaluation.
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