The attention of the Environment Protection Agency Sierra Leone (EPASL) has been drawn to an erroneous and maliciously conceived publication making the rounds on social media that EPASL staff are harassing people engaged in what the publication refers to as “Mini Mining activities”, otherwise known as artisanal mining, within Bo district. The publication further alleges that EPASL staff have been arresting these so-called artisanal miners, taking them to police stations and forcing them to pay fines.
The EPASL wishes it to be known that the said publication is false, ill motivated and a deliberate ploy to bring the good name of the Agency into disrepute. We therefore urge the general public to treat the contents of the publication as preposterous and without any foundation.
Furthermore, the allegation that the EPASL has been sent by government to harass the people and deprive them of their living couldn’t have been more ludicrous. It goes without saying that the government of His Excellency the President, Rtd Brigadier Dr. Julius Maada Bio attaches great importance to environmental safety and the right of Sierra Leoneans to live in a safe environment.
Artisanal mining activities in Sierra Leone are recognized by government but they are not without conditions. Some of the legally enshrined conditions for artisanal mining in Sierra Leone are that only Sierra Leoneans are allowed to engage in the practice and that mining should be carried out without heavy equipment like excavators and bulldozers. In other words, artisanal mining, for which licenses are granted by the Mines and Minerals Agency, is restricted to Sierra Leoneans and must only be done using light equipment like shovels, cutlasses and pickaxes.
The EPASL has found out, during the course of its environmental monitoring, that certain individuals are engaged in mining activities in various parts of the country using heavy equipment and without licenses. Where these heavy equipment are used, the practice can no longer be referred to as artisanal mining or “Mini Mining”. The EPASL has also found in some instances that foreigners are engaged in large scale mining activities under the guise of artisanal mining. It is certainly a violation of the EPA Act of 2008 when mining is conducted in this manner without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) license for which perpetrators could incur various kinds of lawful punishment ranging from fines to jail terms, or in extreme cases, to both fine and imprisonment.
What is also troubling is the fact that some of these mining activities are carried out with little or no regard for their ramifications on the health and social wellbeing of communities whose livelihoods are dependent on rivers and other watercourses by way of fishing and agricultural activities. Another thing that is of grave concern to the EPASL is that some of these mining activities involve the use of mercury, which is an internationally banned hazardous substance under the Minamata Convention to which Sierra Leone is a party.
In light of the forgoing, the EPASL wishes to admonish the general public to desist from any activities that pose a danger to the environment and, more importantly, to the wellbeing of the people of Sierra Leone. The EPASL further entreats the public to report any activities that appear to be threatening to the environment of Sierra Leone. Let’s join hands together to protect our environment for the benefit of our country’s development.
For more information, please contact the Public Relations and Intersectoral Collaboration Directorate of the EPASL, or call us on +23276787521.
Mr. Salihoe Saidu
Public Relations and Intersectoral Collaboration Directorate