Late last month, the Central American state of El Salvador made history as the first country in the world to ban metal mining. The decision by lawmakers to ban mining in the country came after a protracted struggle between activists and mining companies to protect the country’s dwindling water sources from pollution by mining projects.

Company forced to consult community and civil society

Zambia’s copper industry is doing well. Now the third largest copper producer in the world, its mines produced over 700,000 tons in 2011 – an output that was last recorded in the industry’s heyday in the 1960s. And an output that was set to be smashed in 2012 with the Bank of Zambia forecasting that copper production would rocket to over 975,000 tons.

If the global demand persists and the commodity prices remain buoyant then Zambia’s mines could rake in as much as US$7.3 billion.

There are few more controversial topics within the global debate on the impact of extractive industries than ‘fracking’ - now the fight has come to southern Africa.

How will fracking affect the Karoo?

With the discovery of gold in the late 1800s, mines began to spread unrelentingly across much of South Africa – resulting in extreme wealth for a few, exploitation and suffering for the majority and serious environmental degradation.

South Africa is no longer the leading supplier of gold but it still boasts an abundance of mineral resources and is one of the leading producers of gold, diamonds, base metals and coal. The mining industry is still the largest industrial sector in South Africa, employing an estimated half a million people.

In pictures: Life in the shadow of a Zambian mine

Whisper it softly but something truly extraordinary has happened in Zambia in recent weeks - a major mining company has been forced (shock!) to take the health of local people into account and (horror!) to actually consult civil society and local communities about its activities. These 'earthshattering' events have not attracted nearly as much attention as they should. And if you're thinking 'well it's not much' - let me repeat - a rich, politically-very-powerful mining company has been forced to back down by the government because of concerns about the rights of local communities.

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