BASF and the Marikana massacre

16 August 2012, Marikana/South Africa: 34 striking miners of the world´s third-largest platinum mining company LONMIN are shot by the police. In the final report of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry LONMIN was assigned share of the responsibility for this massacre. BASF was the main customer of LONMIN, which was acquired by the South African mining company Sibanye-Stillwater in 2019 and continues to supply platinum to BASF.
As a German flagship company and a founding member of the UN Global Compact,  BASF – the world´s largest chemical company – portrays itself as an international pioneer in ‘supply-chain responsibility’ and claims its sustainability standards ‘go far beyond statutory requirements’. Just at the urging of Bishop Jo Seoka in April 2015 BASF gave its first statement to the massacre, claiming that LONMIN’s failings were ‘difficult to judge from a distance’.

The widows of the killed mine workers were demanding a contribution to reparation payments at the BASF’s Annual General Meeting in April 2016. Their questions to the CEO of BASF, Kurt Bock, remained unanswered till today: „We ask you again, what will you do to assist us to restore our lives, our families, and our human dignity, after LONMIN brutally killed our husbands and loved ones? (…) We say that the actions that LONMIN has taken since the massacre – with your apparent approval – have left us worse off.  We ask, what steps will you take to ensure that LONMIN meets its responsibilities in terms of compensation and redress? We have come here to speak to you directly, to tell you of what is happening at the far end of your platinum supply.  So we now ask, what will you do to ensure that LONMIN will deal with the on-going and unresolved problems that caused workers to strike, over three years ago:  paying less than a living wage, failing to provide acceptable living conditions at the workplace, failing to negotiate with the workers’ chosen representatives?  In your recent statements, these issues are not addressed.  And until these questions are answered, there can be no resolution. We say: PlOUGH BACK THE FRUITS.”

BASF’s measures so far have been toothless in light of the seriousness of the offenses of one its direct suppliers: BASF carried out an unpublished audit with LONMIN, which only identified potential for improvement in environmental and safety issues. In view of the situation of the local workers and the surviving dependents, this assessment is wrong. A few more meetings with Group management and individual stakeholders are not sufficient to tangibly and sustainably improve the situation.

BASF describes itself as combining “economic success” with “social responsibility”: Given the behavior with regard to the South African miners and the €1 billion in taxes in recent years which ended up in the Company’s own pocket rather than the public purse, this self-image is in danger of becoming nothing more than a mockery of the Company’s own practices.
In the fifth year after the massacre of Marikana, workers, digging out the world’s most precious metal, are still living in slums. Up to now, no reparations were paid to the relatives of the killed mine workers.

further readings:
Plough Back the Fruits Newsletter 1/2017
Mission Statement of the PLOUGH BACK THE FRUITS campaign