By Ishmael Dumbuya
The German International Cooperation, GiZ, has on 21st September 2023 ended a three-day training of trainers on International Social and Environmental Standards at the Atlantic Hotel, Aberdeen, Freetown. The training commenced on the 19th September, and ended on 21st September.
In his presentation, Joseph Moy Kamara, the Technical Advisor, Regional Resource Governance in West Africa, Giz, stated that artisanal and small scale gold mining in the Mano River Union dates back several years to the traditions of certain communities. He underscored that the majority of people involved in artisanal mining live in poverty and have no access to health services, education or protection in the same way as workers in the formal sector.
He went on to state that environmental degradation in gold mining areas is very dangerous in the medium and long term due to lack of international practices and the lack of corrective measures.
He highlighted that the use of chemicals such as mercury has harmful effects of human health and the environment, noting that arable land in mining areas are often affected as well as the livelihoods of local mining communities.
“In addition to the devastating impact of artisanal mining, the practices used to market the metal in various countries are also alarming, gold smuggling is widespread in MRU countries, resulting in considerable loss of revenue for governments,” he concluded.
Regional Manager National Mineral Agency (NMA), Mohamed Ngaima, commended GiZ for organizing such a training as the NMA is the umbrella body the oversees all mining operations and activities, adding that bringing in international best practices in the mining and extractive industry is a step in the right direction as it will upgrade mining activities’ across the country, and by extension MRU countries.
According to Ngaima, the extractive sector in the MRU Region is an essential source of livelihood for many people in the four countries of the Mano River Union (MRU), Cote d Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
He further stated that the sector in the MRU Region is often confronted with social conflicts, environmentally friendly mining methods, human rights violations, insufficient civil society participation, non-transparent revenue management and systemic corruption.
“In the past, revenues from the extraction of and trade with minerals fueled armed conflicts in the region, the consequences of which can still be felt today,” he explained.
Deborah Ngozi Lahai, a CSO activist noted that the impact of the training is very much significant to the unfolding status quo in the country. She highlighted that in all four MRU countries, the tax authorities have increased their capacity to audit mining companies. She indicated that the mining authorities in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea have introduced a digital cadaster system for managing licenses, which is open to the public.
“In Sierra Leone, the project supported the broadcast of an interactive radio drama series called ‘Bush Wahala’ on 33 radio stations, with a potential reach of 1.7 million people. That increases community understanding of mining issues and supports local communities’ in their interaction with mining companies,” she echoed.
The training attracted members of the fourth estate, staff from Giz, and the trainees.