STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT WORKSHOPS Developing a National Action Plan for Mercury Reduction and Sustainable Development in Sierra Leone’s Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining Sector in Western Area District

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
  • Hailed from Kailahun District, Eastern Region of Sierra Leone
  • Went to FBC (University of Sierra Leone) and graduated with BSc (Hons) in Chemistry
  • Did and earned his PhD in the United Kingdom
  • Lectured at Fourah Bay College
  • Worked as Consultant for a long period of time
  • Chairman: Dr. Morie Kalilu Kormoh

Chairman’s opening remark: In his opening statement Dr. Kormoh welcomed the participants and he expressed his sincere gratitude to all participants for sparing time, travel and participate in this important workshop. He said that the workshop aims at preparing the NAP (National Action Plan) for the ASGM (Artisanal Small Scale Miners). He started by explaining briefly about the Minamata Convection on Mercury which in 2013 Sierra Leone was among the countries which signed this convection on the Diplomatic meeting that was held in Kumamoto, Japan. Artisanal Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) is among the sectors which use significant amount of mercury in the process of gold extraction and the sector employs a large number of Sierra Leoneans. The use of mercury in the artisanal and small scale mining sector possess wide range of effects on human health and the environment hence the main objective of the Minamata Convention on mercury is to encourage all concerned to put modalities place in reducing mercury use or better still discourage its use. In essence Dr Kormoh said Minamata Convention on Mercury is a blueprint for actions to protect human health and the environment.

The Director of Mines Mr. Peter Kapr Bangura of the Natural Mineral Agency-Sierra Leone gives his opening statements by saying that the NMA is the main body responsible for regulating the entire mining sector in the country. He continued by saying that the agency play a key role in formulating implementing, monitoring and enforcing mineral related policies. Mr. Bangura concluded with his opening statement by saying NMA collaborates with EPA-SL and other MDA’s in making sure that ASGM sector is regulated in order to protect human health and the environment.

By Professor Foday Moriba Jaward (PhD)

Prof. Jaward started by acknowledging and welcoming the presence workshop’s participants. He said the workshop is very important for the socio-economic development of Sierra Leone, especially on poverty alleviation, environmental and public health safety. He explained that the main idea of the Minamata Convention on Mercury is to protect human health and the environment from numerous effects of mercury use in the ASM sector. He continued by saying that Sierra Leone is currently the Chairman of the Implementation and Compliance Committee of the Minamata Convention on Mercury indicating the high level of commitment Sierra Leone has shown in the global fight against mercury pollution. However, the sector, which is largely informal, has been identified as a major source of mercury release in the environment. EPA-SL has embarked on nationwide public awareness raising in the artisanal and small-scale mining communities on radio and Television before ratifying the Convention. Globally, Sierra Leone participated in all the Inter-Governmental Negotiation Committee (INC) meetings on the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the Africa Group Preparatory meetings and the Conference of Parties meetings.

He concluded by assuring all participants that EPA, in collaboration with the UNITAR, is highly committed to have a successful National Action Plan for the Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining sector and its fullest implementation.

Introduction remark of UNITAR rep was giving by Mr. Jorden de Haan, he welcomed all the participants of the workshop and continue by saying that the objective of the Minamata Convention on Mercury is to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effect of mercury. He concluded by saying that UNITAR helps signed up country to the convention to develop their National Action Plan (NAP) and helps in capacitating state authorities and all that are concerned in the ASM sector by conducting training.

PRESENTATION OF THE NAP CONTENT AND MINAMATA

                                                                                         JORDEN de HAAN-UNITAR REP

In his opening statement Mr. Jorden de Haan started by explaining that artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is responsible for approximately 37% of the global anthropogenic mercury emissions and is the largest source of air and water mercury pollution. Mercury remains a major global, regional and national challenge in terms of threats to human health and the environment.  Low prices, easy use, high accessibility, and the lack of knowledge about mercury and its risks are the main reasons artisanal and small-scale miners continue to use mercury to separate gold from other materials.

Mr Jorden de Haan 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 Jorden 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 Jorden 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. The Minamata Convention addresses the largest anthropogenic source of mercury pollution, artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM). Under the 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 Jorden de Haan of UNITAR, 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.

QUESTION AND DISCUSSION

After the end of the presentation from Mr Jorden de Haan, Dr Kormoh invited all participants for the comment and questions session.

Comment: Low prices, easy use, high accessibility, and the lack of knowledge about mercury and its risks are the main reasons artisanal and small-scale miners continue to use mercury to separate gold from other materials. A civil society representative advised that people especially miners should be educated on the effects of mercury on their heath and on the environment and also the need to have a long term plan of finding the best alternative technology for the ASGM sector.

Recommendation: The need for all participants who get this information should share with all concerned authorities and that the Government should introduce alternative technologies for gold recovery and should provide protective gears to miners.

Recommendation: Small scale miners should form their groups which will help them to access small grants and subsidy from government and other financial institution.

Recommendation: The representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affair & International cooperation said that on tackling of effects of mercury EPA-SL & NMA must give out education to all small scale miners on the effects of Mercury use and put efforts on the laws concerned with chemical use, collaborate with CSO’s to prepare good procedure which can raise awareness to the small scale miners on the issue of mercury use and its effects.

Recommendation: Miners have negative thought on wearing of protective gears, so it is hard for them to wear them thus the need to educate miners on the benefits of using protective gears.

Recommendation: Government should compose the policy concerned with invaders/ unlicensed miners, and should recognize them as small scale miners and also should give them license so that they can contribute on the National earns through the payment of taxes and levies.

PRESENTATION OF THE ASGM OVERVIEW

ASGM EXPERT MR. MOHAMED ABDULAI KAMARA

Overview of the project “Contributing to the preparation/ implementation of the Minamata Convention with focus on Developing Strategies to Implement the National Action Plans for Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining” Presented by Mr. Mohamed Abdulai Kamara who is the coordinator of this project and started by outlining the report as: introduction of the project; objectives; and project activities.

On the part of introduction, he mentioned the title of the Project is “contribution to the Implementation/Implementation of the Minamata Convention with focus on developing strategies to implementing the National Action Plan (NAP) on Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining”. The overall objective of the program is to contribute to the development of the National Implementation Plan (NAP) for the Minamata Convention on Mercury in Sierra Leone.

Mr. Kamara started with his presentation by outlining the meaning of the ASM sector, he said that an artisanal miner or small-scale miner (ASM) is a subsistence miner who is not officially employed by a mining company, but works independently, mining various minerals or panning for gold using their own resources. Small-scale mining includes enterprises or individuals that employ workers for mining, but generally using manually-intensive methods, working with hand tools. He mentioned that the ASM is an important socioeconomic sector for the rural poor in many developing nations, many of whom have few other options for supporting their families. Mr Kamara continued with his presentation by highlighting that about 950 hectare of land is occupied by 80,000 artisanal gold miners who produces about 2.9 tons of gold annually in Sierra Leone.

Also he explained that the artisanal mining can include activities as simple as panning for gold in rivers, to as complex as development of underground workings and small-scale processing plants. In any of these circumstances, issues can stem from difficulties in achieving regulatory oversight of a large number of small operations (including issues such as security of land tenure for artisanal miners, to enforcement of environment, safety standards, and labour standards). As a result, child labour and a large number of fatal accidents have been reported in artisanal mines (especially in the gold mining sector). To improve the situation of small-scale miners, organizing them in cooperatives and certifying gold may be helpful. Nationally, an average of 15% of ASM are women. There are many challenges facing women in ASM in Sierra Leone. Digging, crushing ore, and other extraction tasks are exhausting dangerous work, and yet as the primary livelihood for millions of women, they continue to go to mining sites even while pregnant and nursing young children. Women have reduced access to mining resources, including land, finance, and tools. Women in mining networks have slowly grown over the years, but much remains to support them. Empowering women, building solidarity, and supporting national associations will ensure that rights are respected and women gain better opportunities and access to improving livelihoods.

He concluded by saying that the ASM sector in Sierra Leone like any other country uses mercury other chemicals in the extraction and processing of gold. The total average estimate of mercury use in Sierra Leone’s ASGM sector per year is 352kg. Miners and that are concerned in the gold mining sector have little awareness of mercury and other chemical’s environmental and health impacts, as a results it use in the sector poses a greater effects on human health and the environment. Sierra Leone like other developing countries in the world those not have the capacity to produce mercury and the other chemicals but do import into the country. In order to maximize the positive impact of ASM, it must be formalized, responsible and well governed. In his concluding statements Mr. Kamara said the ASM has both positive and negative impacts.

QUESTION AND DISCUSSION

After the end of the presentation from Mr Kamara, Dr Kormoh invited all participants for the comment and questions session.

Question 1: Due to the numerous challenges faced by miners in the ASGM sector, the representative from the Ministry of Labor & Social Security asked if the ministry was engage in the process of developing the national overview of the ASGM sector in Sierra Leone in order to ascertain the violation of labor in the sector:

In response to question 1, Mr Kamara of EPA said that Ministry of Labor & Social Security was fully engaged in the process of the developing the national overview of the ASGM sector.

Comment 1: The need to ensure health and safety of miners in the ASGM sector.

Comment 2: The world band representative there is a need for NRA & NMA to establish a data base system of license issued in the country.

Recommendation: The need to formulating environmental best practices of gold mining instead of using gold.

Comment 3: Establish an environmental desk person across all MDA’s in the country and also ensure that all MDA’s incorporate environmental issues in their action plan:

In response to comment 3, Mr. Kamara of EPA-SL said the environmental desk persons are available at all MDA’s and even at local council level and that they do meet on quarterly basis to give an updates.

Recommendation: Proper collaboration with the Ministry of Labor & Social Security in other to regulate the sector by ensuring that child labor is minimised or better still eliminated and also to protect the health and safety of gold miners in the ASGM sector.

Recommendation: Creation of mobile license facility in other to reduce the bureaucracy of obtaining license and also reduce travelling cost.

Recommendation: Capacitate health workers in dealing with mercury related problems in the local communities.

Recommendation: Engage local authorities to regulate the ASGM sector at the local level or better still localised the ASGM sector.

Recommendation: Issue of license to specific miner in specific geographical areas in other to avoid conflicts.

 

MAPPING ISSUES OF THE ASGM SECTOR, INCLUDING POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE IMPACT OF GOLD MINING

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
Generate income a means to economic growth Environmental degradation (land degradation, deforestation etc.)
Creates job opportunity Water bodies contamination
Improves local business Health and sanitation problems
Diversification of the rural economy Increase in anti-social disorder
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 Abandoning agriculture (a challenge to achieve food security
Improve standard of living Increase in rural population
Reduces urbanization Hype in gender base violence

 

IMPACTS PRIOTIZTION

All participants of workshop deliberated on the prioritization of impacts; below are the prioritized positive and negative impacts outlined by all the participants of the workshop.

No. Prioritized positive impacts No. Prioritized negative impacts
1 Job creation and provision of livelihood support 1 Environmental degradation
2 Economic growth 2 Health related problems
3 Local business development 3 Child labor
4 Infrastructural development 4 Increase in anti-social disorder
5 Increase in local revenue mobilization 5 Land dispute and associated land conflict

 

ARTICULATING A NATIOANAL VISION FOR THE ASGM SECTOR: SETTING GOALS MERCURY REDUCTION TARGET

           BY UNITAR, EPA-SL, ALL

All the participants deliberated on the national vision for the ASGM sector and as well set goals to attain the objectives of reducing mercury use were the various things articulated on.

  • In conducting awareness raising there should be involvement of relevant stakeholders at both local and national level in order to tailor the awareness raising messages according to the level of understanding of all concerned in the ASGM sector.
  • Conduct research and establish better alternative mining practices of gold mining rather using mercury which poses effects on human health and the environment.
  • Inter-sectoral approach or proper collaboration with the necessary MDA’s charged with the responsibility to deal with mercury and related chemicals used in the gold mining industry.
  • Since CSO’s works directly with the local people, there is the need to engage them conducts awareness raising on the alternative best practices of mining gold,
  • Involvement of the local people i.e. miners in every step of the way to deal with mercury related effects on human health and the environment.
  • Establish a good working relationship with local authority in the mining areas i.e. local council, chiefdom authorities, village heads and the likes.
  • Establish environmental desk persons across all MDA’s
  • Formulation of sound policies in dealing with the ASGM sector as a whole.
  • The need to formalize the ASGM sector

 

DISCUSSION OF NAP STRATEGIES PART 1: IMPROVING MINING PRACTICES

 

PRESENTATION OF BETTER MINING PRACTICES AND ALTERNATIVE TECHNOLOGY BY BUNTING WILLIAM

Mr. Bunting Williams started his presentation by saying that artisanal gold miners work in:

  • difficult and often very hazardous conditions
  • in the absence of the required safe mining knowledge or any regulations
  • or standards, toxic materials can be released into the environment, posing large health risks to the miners, their families and surrounding communities

Thus, gold mining operations are particularly dangerous, as they often use the mercury amalgamation process to extract gold from ores. 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.

Mr. William continued with his presentation by explaining that gold mining activities in Sierra Leone have mainly been done through crude methods of mining with consequential hazards to the health of the miners, their respective families and the communities surrounding such mining activities.

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. Bunting William rounded up with his presentation by saying that best practices in artisanal gold mining are the method that will reduce the environmental pollution, health hazards occasion by the use of mercury in the recovery of Gold especially with the method of amalgamation. He went further by highlighting some of the best practices in the artisanal gold mining, they are highlighted below.

  • Concentration of the ore
  • Controlled amalgamation
  • Locally made retorts
  • Use of emerging technology for mercury free method of mining gold

DISCUSSION ABOUT FEASIBLE PRACTICES

Question 1: Whether if there is going to be investment in emerging technology for mercury free method of mining gold?

In his response Mr. Bunting William said Sierra Leone like other developing countries do not have the requisite resources to invest in emerging technology for mercury free method of mining gold but hope to secure funds from partners to invest in this new technology.

Comment: The need to test the new technology in other to ascertain and make known the related effects in using the new technology.

Comment: The need the build the technical know-how about the use of the new emerging technology for mercury free method of mining gold.

Comment: Making sure that the new emerging technology for mercury free method of mining gold is cost effective, accessible.

Comment: Engage local technological industry (FINIC) to develop the new technology and also to be doing maintenance.

Comment: Conducts awareness raising on the use of the new emerging technology for mercury free method of mining gold.

Comment: Organize the miner’s interms of cooperatives in other to take ownership of the new emerging technology for mercury free method of mining gold and to ensure its sustainability.

Comment: The need engage financial institution to invest in emerging technology for mercury free method of mining gold.

Comment: The need to collaborate and incorporate with local technology firms.

Comment: Working closely with higher institution and NGO’S & CSO’s to do research and establish best alternative practices to mine gold instead of using mercury.

DISCUSSION ABOUT FEASIBLE INTERVENTION

  • Capacity building on best alternative methods on ASGM sector.
  • Provide loans or grants to small scale gold miners
  • Conducts awareness raising in local languages of the artisanal and small-scale miners for better comprehension
  • Educational and training institutions and research institutions should stick on research and training of alternative best practices.
  • Detecting, monitoring and managing mercury intoxication among affected infection.
  • Establish statistics and data on ASGM

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

Challenges in regulating the illegal trade of chemicals and minerals- perspective from MTI and NRA

The NRA representative Mr. Kamara explained that data on ASM is woefully inadequate, which limits an understanding of the sector, and appropriate policy measures. Collaborative and transparent knowledge sharing, data collection and analysis is required. He continued by saying that one way to regulate the importation of mercury in the country is to increase taxation but this will in turn have a multiplier effects on the ASGM sector. Also he said due to the porosity of the country’s borders makes it a daunting tax to regulate the importation of mercury into the country. Mr. Kamara ended his presentation by saying that there is need to for the necessary MDA’s to ascertain all mercury containing products and also formulate  sound regulation framework.

Presentation of Sierra Leone’s ASM formalization including recent reforms

By Mr. Peter Kapr Bangura of NMA

In his presentation Mr. Bangura said in order to maximize the positive impact of ASM, it must be formalized, responsible and well governed. The majority of miner’s worldwide and in Sierra Leone in particular do not have legal title, and oftentimes the regulatory frameworks for national mining policy work to exclude or restrict ASM practices.  He continued by explaining that mineral rights for ASM are required, including the right to transfer and upgrade mineral concessions, rights to successive permit renewals and exclusivity, access to land for exploration, extraction and processing, access to markets and access to government agencies to support a responsible ASM legal environment.

The Director of Mines Mr. Peter Kapr Bangura of the Natural Mineral Agency-Sierra Leone made a statements by saying that the NMA is the main body responsible for regulating the entire mining sector in the country. He continued by saying that the agency play a key role in formulating implementing, monitoring and enforcing mineral related policies. Mr. Bangura concluded by highlighting the steps taken by Government in other to formalize the sector

  • Approval of the ASM policy by cabinet
  • Improved human resource capacity of NMA and EPA Regional Offices
  • Ongoing geophysical survey-possible designation of ASM areas
  • Framework currently being developed to allow mechanized ASM.

PRESENTATION OF FORAMLIZATION HAND BOOK

   BY MR. JORDEN de HAAN OF UNITAR

In his presentation of the formalization handbook started by saying that transformation of ASGM has been increasingly recognized as an opportunity to alleviate poverty and contribute to local, national, and regional development.

He continued with his presentation by stating what formalization is all about, he said 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.

Mr. Jorden de Haan concluded by saying that in other to creates and enabling environment and developing a formalization strategy, it will be of great importance to know what the formalization process is all about thus comes in the six key components of the formalization process which are outline below:

  • Geoprospect and allocate land to ASGM
  • Facilitates miners organization
  • License and regulate ASGM
  • Organize the supply chain
  • Facilitates access to finance, markets and services
  • Monitor and enforce ASMG regulation

QUESTION AND DISCUSSION ON ASGM FORMALIZATION

Question 1: Whether if NMA have compliance officers at the local level where the actual mining takes place.

Mr. Peter Kapr Bangura said due to the informality of ASGM sector in the country makes them an institution to training for 200 compliance officers all in the name of regulating the ASGM sector.

Recommendation: Capacitating compliance officer with the necessary logistic that will aid them to effectively and efficiently carry out their required mandate.

Recommendation: The need to establish a data base system to ascertain the number of miners in the ASGM sector.

Question 2: Whether if governments and its required institution is place to fully implement the formalization process.

In his response to question 2 above, Mr. Peter Kapr Bangura he will give yes or no answer to the aforementioned question 2. Yes because there is high level of commitment in ensuring the ASGM sector is formalized and no because if there is lack of cooperation among the miners in the sector.

Recommendation: Capacitating and educating the miners to see the need for formalization

Recommendation: Formulating better and sound gold mining related policies.

Recommendation: Involvement of key stakeholder’s moreso at the local level.

Recommendation: Establish well-structured data base system for better formalization process.

 

PRESENTATION OF NAP STRATEGIES PART 3: PUBLIC HEALTH AND VULNERABLE GROUP

Presentation of public health strategies

       By Jorden de Haan of UNITAR

In his presentation on the public health strategy of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, Mr. Jorden den Haan said that to date, most country’s health sector does not have a lot of experience working with ASGM communities. However, the Minamata Convention obligates responsibility for implementing a public health strategy to address the exposure of artisanal and small-scale gold miners and their communities to mercury. In order to do so, the health sector needs to address issues of gathering data, training health workers, communicating risks and protecting vulnerable populations.

Presentation of protecting and empowering women in ASM

    By Dr. Aisha Ibrahim

Dr. Aisha Ibrahim started her presentation by giving and overview of women in the ASM sector by stating that the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) has grown significantly in Sierra Leone and majority depend on the sector for source of livelihood. The role of women in ASM is significant, as they make up around 30 per cent of the total workforce, and up to 50 per cent in some regions. Although cultural and historical aspects have relegated women’s participation to the periphery, women have always been part of the mining workforce. Women have primarily been involved in crashing, sluicing, washing, panning, sieving, sorting, mercury-gold amalgamation, amalgam decomposition and, in rare occasions, actual mining. Women are also active in the provision of goods (e.g., food and drink vending, sales of artisanal equipment such as sieves, and credit for mobile phones) and services (e.g., transporting dirt, ores, ore particles and water; cleaning; laundry; sex; nightclub entertainment; and trading). However, the cultural and institutional constraints women face have ensured their involvement in the most value-bearing places such as pits and fair markets is practically non-existent.

In continuation with her presentation Dr. Aisha Ibrahim explained that women face different economic challenges as a result of the lack of access to, use of and control over resourceful land and other productive resources, licences, finance, and geological data. In many cases, such as that observed in Sierra Leone, traditional beliefs prevent women from these utilizing these economic factors, denying them any control over earnings. The inability to access finance contributes to women’s inability to invest in mining equipment and technology necessary for a successful business. At policy level, the existing discrimination against women often puts them at a lower order in policy decisions affecting them. The de jure and de facto inequity in access to and control over land and property rights constrains women from accessing various other determinants of mining business success, such as finance.

In her rounding up statement she said despite the numerous challenges highlighted above, women in ASM have demonstrated enormous potential to achieve substantial financial gains and manage successful mining businesses. Below are some of areas which she highlighted to be of high importance in empowering women in the ASM sector.

  • Land, licences and legal protection
  • Access to finance
  • Institutional support and services
  • Equipment and technology

QUESTION AND DISCUSSION

Below are the few recommendation made by workshop participant from Dr. Aisha Ibrahim presentation

  • Mainstreaming gender in land and licences issuance and legal protection
  • Gendered facilitation and provision of finance equipment and emerging technology
  • Women empowerment through education skills and training
  • Gendered access to markets and training on marketability
  • Building women’s institutional capacity

Recommendation: Assessment of availability of alternative mercury-free devices and related supporting services

Recommendation: Establishment of monitoring framework to facilitate reporting on delivery of interventions and any unforeseen or unexpected issues/impacts

Recommendation: Development of awareness-raising, training and capacity-building activities

Availability of affordable alternatives i.e. to change all medical equipment and devices that contain mercury.

Recommendation: Provide logistical support for health works like protective gears

Recommendation: Encourage the Ministry of Health & Sanitation to incorporate mercury related issues in their action plan

Recommendation: Train and provide gold miners with first aid know and kits.

WAY FORWARD IN DEVELOPING NAP

Below are the recommendation giving by workshop participants as way forward in developing NAP

  • Present key available tools and best practices in the environmental governance of ASM and

formalization;

  • Miners should see clear benefits from formalising, for example through improved market access and better training and capacity building, in addition to access to technology and finance.
  • Developing a national overview of the ASGM sector, including baseline estimates of mercury use and practices developed as part of the mercury inventory activity;
  • Formulating an implementation strategy
  • Developing an evaluation process for the NAP
  • Promoting alternatives to mercury in ASGM
  • Statistics and data on ASGM
  • Identify the necessary fund for the NAP process
  • Public health strategies related to ASGM and integration
  • Strategies for community outreach and stakeholder involvement
  • Labor standards, regulations and enforcement, including strategies to eliminate child labor
  • Reach out to local governments
  • Have a significant role in mercury exposure/reduction strategies and technological interventions, etc.
  • Provides understanding of technical alternatives to mercury use
  • Research and development of mercury-free methods
  • Small and commercial-sized loans to miners to assist with financing transition towards better practices
  • Establish environmental focal person across all MDA’s
  • Manning of porous borders to curtail the importation of mercury