BACKGROUND

Background

The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) provides innovative learning solutions to individuals, organizations and institutions to enhance global decision-making and support country-level action for shaping a better future. Over the years, UNITAR has acquired unique expertise and experience in designing and delivering a variety of training activities. UNITAR, with Swiss funding and funds from other international partners, has assisted many countries in different regions in the ratification and implementation of the Minamata Convention. The projects focus on laying the foundations to start the ratification process with an inception workshop, to create a working group including all important stakeholders and to prepare a ratification dossier.

Article 7 of the Minamata Convention on Mercury addresses artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM), the largest global source of mercury pollution. Under this Article, countries where mercury use in ASGM is “more than insignificant” are required to take steps to reduce and, where feasible, eliminate the use of mercury, by developing a NAP. UNITAR’s NAP projects consist of the following project components:

  1. National information exchange, capacity building and knowledge generation
  2. Strengthening of Coordination Mechanism and organization of process
  3. Assessment of the national infrastructure and capacity for the management of mercury, including national legislation
  4. Development of a mercury inventory, a national overview of the ASGM sector, and strategies to identify and assess mercury-contaminated sites
  5. Identification of challenges, needs and opportunities to implement the Minamata Convention on Mercury
  6. Preparation, validation and endorsement of MIA and NAP, implementation of awareness raising activities and dissemination of results at the national level

Because the ASGM sector is closely tied to complex economic development and poverty issues that are specific to each country’s unique context, UNITAR takes a comprehensive approach to NAP projects that addresses a multiplicity of development challenges. As such, besides addressing mercury’s detrimental effects on human health and the environment, UNITAR’s NAP projects address cross-cutting topics in the ASM sector, such as governance and formalization, its effects on local development and economic inequalities, and its potential to empower vulnerable groups.

UNITAR in partnership EPS-SL were pleased to convene a workshop on the Minamata Convention on Mercury for the ASGM actors: miners (diggers, processors, transporters, and license holders), traders, dealers, goldsmiths and exporters), Authorities from ASGM communities and chiefdoms, Community and youth leaders and Relevant local NGOs, local academia, industrial mining companies and local banks. The objective of the workshop were:

  1. Raise awareness of the NAP development and its expected implications
  2. Identify the stakeholders’ key concerns and interests to take into account in the NAP development and implementation
  3. Present the ASGM Overview report to stakeholders and solicit feedback to update information
  4. Map issues, priorities and perspectives to inform a nation vision for the ASGM sector
  5. Collect inputs for the NAP’s goals, mercury reduction targets and better mining practices
  6. Collect inputs for the NAP’s formalization strategy: selection of a pathway towards formalization

Opening Session

 The stakeholder’s workshop engagement for the development of a National Action Plan and Sustainable Development in Sierra Leone’s Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining Sector was held at the Makeni City Council, Bombali District, Northern Sierra Leone, on Thursday 14th March 2019. The meeting was opened at 9 a.m. by Mr. Mohamed Abdulai Kamara, Senior Environmental Officer, EPA-SL

Mr. Kamara welcomed the participants on behalf of EPA-SL, ask all participant to offer a minute silent prayers and then asked all to introduce themselves by stating their names, institution and their role in the artisanal gold mining sector.

Mr. Kamara went by introducing the Chair for the workshop Mrs. Keilfala, the Northern Regional Head of EPA-SL, in her welcoming addressed, she started by thanking Mr. Kamara for opening the meeting and welcomed again all participant. She stated that as the Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from mercury. She continued by saying that Sierra Leone like every other country is supposed to develop a National Implementation Plan in other to fully achieve the objectives of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

Mrs. Keilfala concluded by declaring the workshop open and asked all participants freely contributes in the deliberation of the workshop.

PRESENTATION OF THE NAP CONTENT AND MINAMATA      

BY JORDEN de HAAN OF UNITAR

In Mr JORDEN de HAAN presentation, he said the development of a ‘National Action Plan on ASGM’ is an opportunity to outline a clear and transparent basis for the support, development, and implementation of sustainable activities to reduce mercury use and releases from ASGM at the national level while also considering other social, environmental, and economic impacts. He continued by saying that the NAP should aim to coordinate and leverage national capacity for pollution prevention, risk reduction, and risk elimination associated with ASGM. Mr JORDAN de HAAN continued with his presentation by outlining the potential benefits of formulating and implementing a National Strategic Plan on ASGM, below are some the benefits he highlighted in his presentation.

  • Improved health and the environment of the ASGM communities, including the reduction of global mercury releases
  • Stronger linkages with the overall development, human rights, and environment agendas
  • Improved access to required resources
  • Iincreased cooperation and collaboration
  • Long term sustainability of the ASGM sector
  • Promoting alternative livelihoods.

Mr JORDAN de HAAN continued with his presentation by giving and overview as to what the Minamata Convention is all about, he said that the Minamata Convention on Mercury, was opened for signature in October 2013 in Japan, the Convention creates a blueprint for actions to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. Article 7 of the Convention addresses the largest anthropogenic source of mercury pollution, artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM). Under the Minamata Convention, countries where mercury is used in ASGM are required to take steps to reduce and, where feasible, eliminate the use of mercury. Because the ASGM sector is closely tied to complex economic development and poverty issues, the Convention allows flexible, country-specific solutions through the development of an ASGM National Action Plan (NAP). Although each country’s NAP process will be unique, Annex C of the Minamata Convention provides a list of elements that must be included in each NAP. In his roundup statement Mr JORDAN de HAAN, said that UNITAR and other international organization assist countries prepare for the ratification of the Minamata Convention, meet their future commitments under the Convention and reduce releases of mercury.

Opening Session

The stakeholder’s workshop engagement for the development of a National Action Plan and Sustainable Development in Sierra Leone’s Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining Sector was held at the Makeni City Council, Bombali District, Northern Sierra Leone, on Thursday 14th March 2019. The meeting was opened at 9 a.m. by Mr. Mohamed Abdulai Kamara, Senior Environmental Officer, EPA-SL

Mr. Kamara welcomed the participants on behalf of EPA-SL, ask all participant to offer a minute silent prayers and then asked all to introduce themselves by stating their names, institution and their role in the artisanal gold mining sector.

Mr. Kamara went by introducing the Chair for the workshop Mrs. Keilfala, the Northern Regional Head of EPA-SL, in her welcoming addressed, she started by thanking Mr. Kamara for opening the meeting and welcomed again all participant. She stated that as the Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from mercury. She continued by saying that Sierra Leone like every other country is supposed to develop a National Implementation Plan in other to fully achieve the objectives of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

Mrs. Keilfala concluded by declaring the workshop open and asked all participants freely contributes in the deliberation of the workshop.

PRESENTATION OF THE NAP CONTENT AND MINAMATA    

      BY JORDEN de HAAN OF UNITAR

In Mr JORDEN de HAAN presentation, he said the development of a ‘National Action Plan on ASGM’ is an opportunity to outline a clear and transparent basis for the support, development, and implementation of sustainable activities to reduce mercury use and releases from ASGM at the national level while also considering other social, environmental, and economic impacts. He continued by saying that the NAP should aim to coordinate and leverage national capacity for pollution prevention, risk reduction, and risk elimination associated with ASGM. Mr JORDAN de HAAN continued with his presentation by outlining the potential benefits of formulating and implementing a National Strategic Plan on ASGM, below are some the benefits he highlighted in his presentation.

  • Improved health and the environment of the ASGM communities, including the reduction of global mercury releases
  • Stronger linkages with the overall development, human rights, and environment agendas
  • Improved access to required resources
  • Iincreased cooperation and collaboration
  • Long term sustainability of the ASGM sector
  • Promoting alternative livelihoods.

Mr JORDAN de HAAN continued with his presentation by giving and overview as to what the Minamata Convention is all about, he said that the Minamata Convention on Mercury, was opened for signature in October 2013 in Japan, the Convention creates a blueprint for actions to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. Article 7 of the Convention addresses the largest anthropogenic source of mercury pollution, artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM). Under the Minamata Convention, countries where mercury is used in ASGM are required to take steps to reduce and, where feasible, eliminate the use of mercury. Because the ASGM sector is closely tied to complex economic development and poverty issues, the Convention allows flexible, country-specific solutions through the development of an ASGM National Action Plan (NAP). Although each country’s NAP process will be unique, Annex C of the Minamata Convention provides a list of elements that must be included in each NAP. In his roundup statement Mr JORDAN de HAAN, said that UNITAR and other international organization assist countries prepare for the ratification of the Minamata Convention, meet their future commitments under the Convention and reduce releases of mercury.

Participants were given a form to states both the positive and negative impact they encountered in the gold mining sector and as well rank the positive and negative impacts of gold mining in their localities.

POSITIVE IMPACTS NEGATIVE IMPACTS
Main source of employment Water contamination
Increase in local revenue generation Habitat destruction/Loss of biodiversity
Main source of livelihood support Risk and accident
Brings about foreign exchange School dropout
Infrastructural development Anti-social disorder
Improve standard of living Increase in population
Improves local business/industries Land conflict
Cultural diversification Land and air pollution
  Health related problems
No. Ranked positive impacts No. Ranked negative impacts
1 Job creation/main source of employment 1 Land degradation and or other environmental related problems
2 Infrastructural development 2 School drop out
3 Increase in local tax generation 3 Increase in anti-social disorder
  4 Increase in population

ARTICULATINNG THE NATIONAL VISION FOR THE ASGM SECTOR: SETTINGS GOALS AND MERCURY REDUCTION TARGETS, IDENTIFICATION OF STEPS TO GET THERE

UNITAR together with EPA-SL and the participants articulated on the national vision for the ASGM sector, under which deliberation was made on goal setting and ways and means to achieve the mercury reduction targets and steps were identify so as to ensure the aims and objective of the Minamata Convention are achieved.

OTHER GOALS TO BE ADDED IN THE NATIONAL ACTION PLAN

  • Organize and formalized the artisanal mining sector in order to minimize the negative impacts of mercury use on human health and the environment
  • Alternative source of livelihood so as to ensure women empowerment
  • Divert the revenue generated from the gold mining sector to create a well sustained alternative source of livelihood
  • Harmonization of the export price of gold in the sub-region
  • Ensure children are totally banned in the gold mining sector
  • Occupational health and safety of gold miners
  • Establish female related project in the gold mining sector
  • Legislation on the governance of ASGM in general and the capacities of the key institutions
  • Identification and assessment of the amounts of emission sources of mercury and release sources of mercury to land and water.
  • National capacity building to undertake detailed Mercury inventory in ASGM

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN TO GET THERE

  • Effective and efficient engagement of relevant stakeholders in the gold mining sector
  • Access to loans
  • Alternative source of livelihood
  • Proper engagement with local authorities on issues related to land governance
  • Massive sensitization on best practices of mercury use and their related health complication and on the environment.
  • Harmonize the export price of gold in the sub-region so as to avoid smuggling
  • Provide information and facilitate inclusive Dialogue
  • Amend the legal framework to accommodate different forms of entities
  • In line with the human rights-based approach, promote the participation of women, youth, and other vulnerable or marginalized groups in the organization processes, encourage them to assume leadership positions, and enable them to form their own organizations if they wish to do so.
  • Design and award mining licenses to women in particular and other marginalized or vulnerable groups
  • Establish a system of taxation, fees, and royalties.

DISCUSSION OF THE NAP STRATEGIES PART 1: IMPROVING MINING PRACTICES

  1. PRESENTATION OF BETTER MINING PRACTICES BY BUNTIN WILLIAMS – FOURAH BAY COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF SIERRA LEONE

In his presentation Mr. Buntin Williams gives an over-view of field experience in artisanal and Small Scale gold mining operations in Sierra Leone and recommends best practices for such activities to take care of the associated dangers and environmental effects. Despite serious dangers occasion by this activity, artisanal gold mining operations continue to spread due to:

  • Rise in the demand for gold
  • Unattractive nature of other means of livelihoods such             as farming in the areas where             the mineral is substantially available.

The environmental effects of artisanal gold mining activities, has spurred a number of environmental conscious organizations including United Nations to seek for alternative ways of recovering gold.

Mr Williams also discussed the reasons/causes why poor practices are used in the gold mining sector and also outlines some of the sound environmental practices.

Causes of poor practices More efficient and better practices
Disorganisation & Transience Concentration of the ore
No technical assistance Controlled amalgamation
Lack of education Locally made retorts
Inadequate Regulations Use of emerging technology for mercury free method of mining gold
Financial Barriers
Lack of Support from Mainstreams of Society

Mr. Williams concluded his presentation by attesting to the fact that artisanal gold mining in Sierra Leone is ripe for a revolution that can lead to the birth of a modern and environmentally friendly method of mining for the benefits of ASM operators, the Governments and the communities where gold mining operations take place.

DISCUSSION: WHAT DO WE NEED TO GET THERE?

All participant of the workshop discussed about what needs to be done achieving the objective of the Minamata Convention and below are the recommendation given.

  • The artisanal miners should be organized under a relevant cooperative society to enable them access microcredit loans and access government benefits
  • The Government of Sierra Leone need to formulate a law, if not already in place, that prevents importation or production of mercury
  • These artisanal miners should be organized under a relevant cooperative society to enable them access microcredit loans and access government benefits, this will enable them carry out safe and environmentally friendly mining operations.
  • Promotion of Awareness and Compliance for Artisanal miners and their community is also recommended.
  • The transfer of emerging technology for mercury free method of mining is desirable; however, it should be with effective training of end-users.
  • Introducing improved mining practices, including the elimination of whole ore amalgamation and open-air amalgam burning;
  • Introducing Hg free processing where viable;
  • An increased price for mercury;
  • Awareness campaigns, policy and governance reforms, and community economic diversification

DISCUSSION OF THE NAP STRATEGIES PART 2: FORMALIZING THE ASGM SECTOR AND MANAGING GOLD AND MERCURY TRADE

BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO FORMALIZATION

BY JORDAN de HAAN OF UNITAR

In his presentation on formalization Mr. Jordan de Haan started by stating that formalization is process that ensures that ASGM actors are licensed and organized in representative entities that represent their needs; policies are implemented, monitored, and enforced; and ASGM actors receive technical, administrative, and financial support that empowers them to adhere to requirements prescribed by national regulations.

He continued by saying that ASGM, if properly regulated, has the capacity to lift people out of poverty, improve health and environmental conditions, and create better economic conditions for entire regions. Mr. Jordan de Haan concluded with his presentation on formalization by ascertaining that the sector provides effective poverty relief by providing jobs, ensuring profits for small producers, and transferring wealth from rich to poor countries.

PRESENTATION OF SIERRA LEONE’S APPROACH TO ASGM FORMALIZATION BY THE DIRECTOR OF MINES MR. BANGURA, INCLUDING RECENT REFORMS, CHALLENGES FACED, AND THE STATE OF FOARMALITY IN SIERRA LEONE

Mr. Bangura started by buttressing the overview of what formalization is all about by saying that formalization can be understood as “a process that seeks to integrate the ASGM sector into the formal economy, society, and regulatory system”. Formalization of the sector is seen by many as a pre-condition for the effective reduction and control of mercury use, since it can facilitate organization, education, access to assistance, and the regulation of gold and mercury trade.

Mr. Bangura his with his presentation by stating that the bringing of the ASGM into the formal economy through legalization benefits the Sierra Leone governments in that they reduce illicit financial transactions, collect taxes, and often see a subsequent reduction in crime in these regions. ASGM is recognized by the world’s major development organizations such as the UN, World Bank, and Global Environment Facility to have the potential to be a major driver for rural development, improving lives in large, rural areas.

Mr Bangura concluded with his presentation by stating that despite its development potential, ASGM is still largely informal in Sierra Leone. Widespread informality in the gold mining sector in Sierra Leone has contributed to the negative social and environmental consequences, such as: unequal benefit sharing among men and women; the worst forms of child labour; hazardous working conditions; links to state and non-state armed groups and associated human rights abuses; impaired health; and environmental degradation (particularly due to the sector’s use of mercury). As a result, there is an emerging consensus among policymakers that formalization must be part of any strategy to develop the ASGM sector.

PERSPECTIVE ON ASGM FORMALIZATION FROM MINERS AND TRADERS: CHALLENGES FACED AND ADVANTAGES ND DISADVANTAGES OF FORMALIZATION

CHALLEHNGES FACED IN ASGM FORMALIZATION

Below the various challenges of formalizing the ASGM sector:

  • limited access to reliable information on the ASGM sector at national, regional, and global levels
  • inadequate understanding of the various dimensions of formalization and local dynamics of the sector
  • lack of capacity of local government agencies and inadequate decentralization processes
  • lack of appreciation of the sector’s development potential, favoring of the LSM sector, and subsequent scarcity of suitable areas for ASGM
  • long, costly, and cumbersome formalization processes and inadequate incentives to formalize
  • limited provision of administrative, technical, and financial assistance to ASGM actors
  • marginalization of the sector and associated cultural norms of informality

BENEFIT OF ASGM FORMALIZATION

Below are benefits highlighted if the ASGM sector is formalized?

  • Give ASGM miners the freedom, time, and space to decide for themselves what form of organization works best for them.
  • Facilitate the establishment of entities and provide ongoing assistance
  • Amends the legal framework to accommodate different forms of entities
  • Amends the legal framework to accommodate different forms of entities
  • Provide information and facilitate inclusive dialogue
  • Helps in the establishment of CBOs, unions, or federations
  • In line with the human rights-based approach, promote the participation of women, youth, and other vulnerable or marginalized groups in the organization processes, encourage them to assume leadership positions, and enable them to form their own organizations if they wish to do so.
  • License traders, goldsmiths, and exporters

DISCUSSION: PRIORITIES FOR IMPROVING FORMALIZATION

  • Reserve a dedicated budget to assist ASGM actors
  • Develop educational programmes on ASGM
  • Simplify trade requirements
  • Build confidence among financial institutions in providing finance to ASGM miners with the use of geological data to demonstrate the economic viability of their operations
  • Provide financial services to ASGM actors over a longer period and allow extended periods for paying back loans.
  • Engage ASGM actors and local communities in the design of assistance to ensure cultural acceptance and an appropriate fit.
  • Institutionalize expertise in ASGM entities, public bodies, NGOs, and legal frameworks
  • Provide administrative and organizational assistance, technical assistance, and basic services
  • Harmonize export tax rates and regulatory frameworks that govern the ASGM sector across the region.
  • Educate end consumers in both gold-producing and importing countries about the realities of the ASGM sector, and encourage them to demand the adoption of responsible business practices by the various stakeholders involved in ASGM activities.
  • Raise awareness and build capacity of the national law enforcement agencies, including customs, to increase their understanding of local gold supply chains, and discourage corruption and bribery by engaging them in relevant policy discussions.
  • Provide ASGM actors and others with information about the legal framework through the organization of workshops, radio programmes, and other media, in a culturally compatible and timely manner. In addition, ensure that stakeholders have the opportunity to contribute directly to developing public policy, thereby enhancing the legitimacy of the regulations and the likelihood of compliance.
  • Provide capacity building on highly complex or technical aspects of the regulations, especially in remote areas from where the information is less accessible
  • Design and disseminate regulatory guidelines for land rehabilitation and mine closure
  • In line with the human rights-based approach, promote the participation of women, youth, and other vulnerable or marginalized groups in gold mining sector.
  • Engage miners and local stakeholders in the process of identifying viable gold deposits and allocating land
  • Include traditional authorities in local ASGM land use policies, and align national policy with their traditional land tenure systems to avoid land conflicts.
  • Decentralize responsibilities, geological and other expertise, and financial and infrastructural resources to relevant local offices of government departments.
  • Encourage landowners to grant land access to women, youth, and other typically vulnerable and disadvantaged groups

DISCUSSION: PRIORITIES IN MOVING FORWARD THE NAP

  • Carry out intensive engagement with mining communities and use results to revise the NAP to make it more practical and realistic
  • Strengthen enforcement of law controlling mercury trading
  • Providing training and seminars about the impacts of mercury use to ASGM and society.
  • To set National guidelines on the use of mercury to ASGM (minimize child labor; protect child and woman from risk).
  • Awareness program at all levels.
  • Land refill and or land reclamation should be fully implemented
  • To allocate responsibilities to all agencies and different committees (stakeholder engagement).
  • Adoption of best practices which have been successful (learn from experienced methods).
  • Promoting research and monitoring.
  • Providing training of workers health.

WAY FORWARD IN DEVELOPING THE NAP AND ENGAGING STAKEHOLDERS

QUESTIONS AND DISCUSSION

  • Conduct seminars to ASGM and surrounding community on awareness of hazards of mercury exposure.
  • Conduct training to ASGM on alternative technologies (demonstration of free mercury methods) to areas of small scale gold mining operations.
  • Encourage people to invest in alternative gold production (gravimetric method, shaking method, sluice boxes/tables, borax etc.) technologies (cleaner to environment and safe to human and animal).
  • Prepare and provide to miners and stakeholders the guidance materials (all general awareness – raising and alternative technology in Kiswahili and English languages) to encourage wide understanding.
  • Conduct investigation to ASGM sites to identify the level of pollution in water bodies (river, dams etc.), near mining sites in order to know the level of contaminations.
  • Awareness training of adverse effect of mercury use to responsible persons or leaders (village or ward, water resources, land management, agriculture, health, environment or conservation) at areas around ASGM sites.
  • Provide seminars and training to illegal miners (artisanal and small- scale miners) to encourage them to become legalized and improving educational services at their mining sites.
  • Encourage the miners to use PPEs and construction of walls to control tailings spillage/mercury waste.
  • Facilitate and support miners to form groups and raise their capital of which can enable them to employ alternative technologies (e.g. cyanidation).
  • Educate and inform the miners the availability of areas potential for artisanal and small scale miners reserved by the government for that purpose; and
  • Educate and inform the miners the availability of grants provided by the government which will help them to have capacity to adapt the mercury free gold processing methods.
  • Reduce illegal mining by re-licensing to ASGM those PLs surrendered by exploration companies and use of geological information obtained; and
  • To initiate yearly award or provide incentives to ASGM who are using mercury free methods to encourage other ASGM to adopt alternatives methods.