22 May 2020
We note with concern the announcement that Danakali – an Australian based mining house, listed on the London Stock Exchange – is proceeding with its investments in Eritrea.
In a statement the company said it was “in the final stages of completing the second phase of development of its world-class Colluli potash project in Eritrea, Africa.”
Danakali’s announcement makes no mention of the fact that its investment will strengthen one of Africa’s most repressive governments. Eritreans experience a complete absence of human rights, with no elections, no constitution, no freedom of expression or assembly and a President who has never been endorsed by an electorate.
Worse still, Danakali’s investment is a joint venture with the government, via the Eritrean National Mining Corporation. Dividends and other payments will strengthen this most repressive of regimes. All employment is controlled by the state, with young men and women trapped in a system of indefinite military conscription that is termed ‘national service.’ Pay is minimal and women are frequently sexually abused. The United Nations has described this as a form of slave labour. The abuses are so severe that they amount to what the UN said were ‘crimes against humanity.’
Danakali quotes – approvingly – from another UN report which claims that the Colluli mining project will be a ‘game changer’ for the country. The company fails to say that the very report that they quote from also calls for Danakali to “By 2020, develop and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization.”
The ILO Global Jobs Pact requires: “vigilance to achieve the elimination and prevention of an increase in forms of forced labour” and “respect for freedom of association, the right to organize and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.”
Forced labour is endemic in Eritrea and enforced by the government. The freedoms of association, the right to organised and bargain freely are banned. The company appears to pay lip service to the codes of the United Nations, but little more.
We call on Danakali to re-consider its operations in Eritrea, until democracy allows its people to truly benefit from its investments.