LIBERIA: Draft Mining Law Under Review

Cross-section of participants at the stakeholders meeting in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County

Stakeholders in the mining and environmental sectors over the weekend reviewed portion of the draft mining law of Liberia relevant for artisanal miners and their stakeholders and provided inputs.

Held in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, the gathering attracted members of the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Working Group (ASMWG) and its Secretariat, civil society representatives, artisanal miners, representatives of ASM operatives, line ministries, agencies and commissions of Liberia.

The Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM) sector is a major source of livelihood for more than 100,000 gold and diamond miners across Liberia.

Notwithstanding, the sector for the most part has been under-regulated thus undermining its huge potential to support social economic growth and livelihood of rural communities with little or no access to basic services and income generating activities, E. Abraham T. Tumbey Jr-Program Coordinator at UNDP said.

Quoting a ‘Regulatory Roadmap for the Artisanal Mining Sector of Liberia’, Mr. Tumbey disclosed that the limited capacity with respect to governance and regulation in the sector has rendered it a source of environmental pollution, conflict and abuse of rights of women and children.

For more than a year now, the Ministry of Mines and Energy in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency has been using the experience and resource materials gained through the Environmental Governance Program (EGP) for Sustainable Natural Resource Management program that is implemented by UNDP/Swedish EPA and funded by SIDA, to support the Artisanal and Small-scale Mining Working Group (ASMWG).

The ASMWG is a platform for dialogues and engagements is a platform that brings together stakeholders from different institutions, the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia, Civil Society Organizations, the Independent Human Rights Commission, others are; the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection and the Ministry of Justice, together they all can carve a roadmap and a suitable way to ensure that artisanal mining can be sustained in the long term.

Speaking at the close of the validation meeting, Assistant Mines and Energy Minister, Johnson Willabo reiterated that artisanal and small-scale mining activities have been very pervasive, destructive and have left negative imprints on the environment.

He disclosed that when the current administration took over five-years ago, she aspired to increase the contributions of mining to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which stands around 10 to 15 percent and said “so we placed that in the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), but the partners pushed back and said it is good to do mining, but it has to do sustainably so that generations unborn can inherit something”.

Assistant Minister Willabo disclosed that the government also vowed in the PAPD to protect 30 percent Liberia’s remaining forest.

“With these high level targets, it places Mines and Energy between the rock and the high place. While we are pushing to raise more revenue for the national envelop, we are cognizant of the fact that we must remain committed to keeping the environment protected as possible,” he said.

Assistant Minister Willabo lauded participants and said the ministry would remain engage with them until the new mining law reaches the president’s desk and is reviewed by the cabinet and subsequently submitted to the Legislature for passage into law.

For his part, John Jallah, Manager of Compliance and Enforcement at the EPA said the review of the draft law is a win for Liberia.

He noted that regulating ‘Class C’ mining sector is a major challenge for Liberia and is even cut-across the region.

Mr. Jallah reiterated that drafting a new mining law and reviewing it is an essential win for Liberia, and noted, “we don’t need to tell you that we are having some challenges, especially when it comes to natural resources management and governance within the mining industry”.

He is optimistic that when the draft law is passed and becomes operational it would help the country sustain and ensure sustainable and smart mining practices.

Moses Massah, UNDP Program Specialist said they are interested in the governance and environmental aspects of mining.

He explained that from what he has read, Liberia is moving in the right trajectory.

Mr. Massah noted that the inclusion of Artisanal Small-scale Mining Working Group in the draft mining law is a giant step toward the governance of mining in Liberia.

He disclosed that from the environmental side, the new law has a whole section on environment, which is very important.

He hopes Liberians will obey the new mining law when it is passed by the Legislature, so that we reduce environmental imprints created by mining.

The one-day validation meeting was organized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ministry of Mines and Energy, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) under the theme: “Strengthening governance, human rights and environmental management for the artisanal mining sector in Liberia through user-friendly tools, awareness and capacity building.”

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