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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

EPA suspends operations of Afro Asia Mining Corporation

January 19, 2022

By Fomba Sheriff IEC Officer South

The Environment Protection Agency Sierra Leone has suspended the operations of Afro Asia Mining Corporation for violating the terms and conditions of its Environmental Impact Assessment License, thereby causing serious pollution of water bodies with attendant implications for local communities. The Action taken by the Agency is consistent with Section 34 of the EPA Act of 2008 which gives the mandate to the Agency to cancel or suspend any project that operates contrary to the terms and conditions of its license.

Afro Asia Mining Corporation has a valid Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) License and a mining license with the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Minerals Agency (NMA) respectively to carry out small scale Rutile mining within One square Kilometer (1sq km) concession in Largo, Lower Banter Chiefdom, Moyamba District; Southern Region. As required by the EIA process, such projects are to be undertaken in a manner that neither alters the quality of life of the people nor endangers the environment of Sierra Leone. The company is therefore under a legal obligation to take concrete steps to avert a disruption of the natural course of the environment. Furthermore, the terms and conditions require the company to put in place an effective and efficient Environmental Management Systems (EMS) to reduce their environmental footprint and protect human health.

An environmental audit conducted by the EPA-SL in October 2021 revealed that the company’s effluent waste was not being managed efficaciously. The findings were communicated to the company and it was expected that adequate measures would have been taken by the company to address this situation.

On the 12th January 2022, a joint team of EPA SL and NMA officials carried out an investigation into   allegations of pollution emanating from the operations of Afro Asia Mining Corporation. The team found that effluent from the mine was running into the Gbenji stream, a tributary of the Taia River.

This pollution affected several communities along the Gbenji stream up to Gbangbatoke. As a responsible institution that cares for the environment and the health of the people, the Agency immediately suspended the operations of the company until practical and sustainable remedial measures are taken to forestall a recurrence of the problem. The company was effectively engaged on its responsibility towards the environment. The team also engaged the affected communities and assured them that both institutions would ensure that their recommendations to the company were satisfactorily implemented.

This is a major step taken by the Agency and one that sends a powerful signal that only responsible mining that has due consideration for environmental management and sustainability with an interest to protect human health will be allowed to carry on activities in the country. The Agency will not encourage reckless mining practices that undermine the integrity of our environment and expose our people to preventable environmental and health risks. EPA-SL will ensure that the terms and conditions of all license companies are respected to protect the environment and human health including their own workers. The Agency is therefore calling on community people and other Civil Society actors including the media to report all issues of environmental infractions to the Agency for appropriate action for the good of all.

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