Women and Mining
In the mining communities of the developing world, it is the women, already disadvantaged, who bear some of the most difficult burdens.
In many countries, women are not permitted to own land or their land rights are restricted in various ways. This lack of title often excludes women from any compensation payments for loss of land that accompany the opening of a mine. Women are often excluded from community negotiations with mining companies.
Mining creates very few employment opportunities for women, and displaces farms and other job sectors in which women are often employed. These changes tend to concentrate economic power in the hands of men, increasing women's dependence on their husbands or male relatives. The loss of female income can in turn exacerbate 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. Women are disproportionately affected by the spread of HIV/AIDS and domestic violence.
Women hold up their list of complaints about the mine pit behind them in Tintaya, Peru.
Credit: Ingrid Macdonald/Oxfam CAA
Women who do find work in the mining companies often face severe discrimination. Women's roles are often limited to low-level clerical positions, often face sexual harassment from male coworkers or supervisors. In some countries, they may be fired if they become pregnant.
Environmental contamination from mining -- especially water pollution -- can greatly complicate the traditional role of women as providers of food and water to their families. In drier regions of the developing world, for example, women must often walk considerable distances to collect the day's water. Mine pollution can lengthen that walk, and reduce the time for other chores or for leisure activities and education.
Environmental problems related to mining affect women both in their work as farmers and as family caregivers and providers.
Credit: Ernesto Cabellos/Guarango Cine y Video
For an example of water contamination impacting lives, please read about Cajamarca, Peru
In January of 1997, female mining activists and mine-affected women from around the world gathered in Baguio City, in the Philippines, to look for ways to address these issues. The result was the establishment of the International Women and Mining Network -- and a commitment to make the plight of women a central concern of mining activism.
For more information:
Endangered Communities. A section from Dirty Metals: Mining, Communities, and the Environment. (592KB)
International Women and Mining Network:
Oxfam Community Aid Abroad: