The Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources over the weekend received a World Bank funded study on environmental and social impact assessment and a resettlement policy frame work study by Ernest Tom Ndomahena and Martin Odei Ajei that indicates mining benefits is still not reaching the people and also decried community safety in mining areas in the country.
Deputy Secretary Ministry of Mines Emmanuel Komba explained the rational behind the impact assessment of mining projects that will improve governance, security and peace by strengthening the capacity of Government to monitor the extractive industries sector and supporting of anti- corruption measures applicable to mining sector and facilitate contribution of mining sector into local economic development.
The report highlighted the legal regulatory and administrative frame works and the World Bank safe guarded policies on mining institutional arrangements that relates to the environment, Sierra Leone mining methodology and environmental social impacts with institutional responsibilities for the management and monitoring of the plan.
Although the environmental impact assessment procedure in Sierra Leone is consistent with international standards, the implementation is often inadequate and unsatisfactory, a large number of EIA reports examined so far contain a large number of irrelevant information that fail to focus on the key aspect of the affected environment.
The reports also examined the lack of performance based standards for assessing compliance with EIA and reclamation plan requirement and the lack of a schedule of intermediate sanctions, tailored to the severity and frequency of violation are among the visible lapses, noting that NaCEF the predecessor to EPA was incapacitated to carry out its mandate. The MTAP report also indicated that reclamation of mined land can reduce the long-term impacts of mining with acceptable financial facts, – reclamation incentives if properly implemented can reduce the foot prints of mining operations, limit threats of water pollution and erosion to human health and safety, return land to productive uses and promote conservation of biological diversity. The report recommended to Government and partners to introduce a reclamation Guarantee Program that will mandate retroactive in all mining contractors in the production stage, that they must post a guarantee of timely and proper reclamation of mining areas. The law will require mining companies to plan for mine closure the guarantee should be posted before the issuance of the exploitation permit; there are also needs for the reclassification of the mining sector, categories in to large, medium scale, small scale and artisanal sectors.The report also recommended that, the core mining policy towards the empowerment of artisanal mining communities by linking them to international markets and tracking diamonds from earth to export, which would help raise awareness on the disadvantages of the tributary system and remove some of the bottlenecks in the newly introduced cadastre system.Project consultants Ernest Tom Ndomahina and Martin Odei Adjei visited a number of mining areas and sought the perception of the communities about the operations of mining companies for large – scale and small scale mechanized mining on reclamation, but most people were of the opinion that it was progressing rather too slowly and unsatisfactory.The communities also expressed dissatisfaction over the relocation of communities no matter what the level of compensation is, noting that lakes and ponds established for mining purposes should be closed, because flooding of the land during the rainy season from the spill over effects of the dam, crops are damaged and grazing land for cattle affected. Communication between mining companies and the host communities have not been very effective and companies corporate responsibilities are also not visible the consultants stressed in the report. The Mines and Minerals Act of 1996 is in place as well as the core Mineral policy of 2004 and the National Land Policy of 2004, National Lands Act of 2006, Forestry Act 1998 and convention on Biodiversity 2003 are among the statutory instrument that relate to the environment, the APC Government is however reviewing all mining license in the country to ensure that the people benefit from the proceeds of all mining operations in the country.The report was presented to Government Local and International Organizations, representative of mining companies Civil Society and the Media, stakeholders are expected to send in their input within three weeks for the final submission to the Government to enact it in to law. By Saidu Bah