The Ministry of Mines and Energy in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Independent National Human Rights Commission (INCHR), Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Ministry of Gender, Children & Social Protection (MoGCSP) has conducted a Training of Trainers (ToT) for Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners (ASM).
The ToT was supported by UNDP and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency through the Environmental Governance Programme (EGP).
The small-scale miners were trained on the proper use of a handbook for Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners (ASM) developed by the EGP in 2021 aimed at promoting and supporting sustainable mining and environmental monitoring at the community level.
The handbook, developed by key stakeholders, including miners themselves, is a user-friendly tool that provides information on best practice guidelines intended to promote sustainable ASM activities.
The Assistant Minister of Planning & Policy at the Ministry of Mines & Energy said the government recognizes the importance of the ASM sector and is committed to making the sector work for the benefit of the people and the country at large.
Johnson Willabo said the training was an opportunity and an important effort needed to share ideas and information that would help curtail the issue of illicit mining. Willabo urged beneficiaries of the training to use the skills and knowledge acquired to train other miners and ASM operatives.
The Compliance and Enforcement Manager at the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), John Jallah stressed that one of the most important contributions of the EGP in Liberia is that it has created a multi-stakeholder platform that promotes dialogue and joint stakeholder monitoring, which is important for addressing some of the key challenges of the sector.
Also making remarks, the President of the Federation of Miners Association of Liberia (FOMAL), Thomas Cassell mentioned that the organization is working with communities in the western region to set up local Participatory Environmental Monitoring Committees (PEMCs).
The PEMC is a local governance platform that is intended to support the integration of environment and human rights into the governance of the mining sector. The platform is used to mitigate the impacts of ASM and contribute to an improved state of the environment in line with Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration of Access to Information, Public Participation, and Access to Justice and supports the community’s vision for ensuring that mining activities do not affect good life and health but mitigate impacts of ASM.
The ASM handbook is an eye-opener enriched with guidelines on the processes and procedures of how to mine sustainably, as well as how to acquire a mining license. It also provides guidance on how to ensure health and safety, human rights, and gender safeguards in mining areas.
Howard Chea, a local miner from Rivercess County described the training as timely. “It gives us information that inspires hope that ASM can be a positive venture if we follow the required guidelines and good practices provided in the Handbook,” Chea noted.
This training is the second leg of similar training conducted in Northwestern Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu Counties in 2021. Following the training, the ASM Working group is expected to convene a one-day official session to review progress made and identify actions needed to advance efforts to improve the regulatory framework and governance of the ASM sector. The meeting will include ASM Working group members from the government as well as civil society.
UNDP Liberia Programme Coordinator and EGP Focal Point under its Inclusive Green Growth Portfolio said the government and its partners recognize the ASM sector as important for income and job creation for the population. Abraham Tumbey stressed that the collective commitment of all the stakeholders can make the ASM sector sustainable in ways that contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“With the PEMC, communities have a local platform that can allow them to serve as stewards for promoting a healthy environment for themselves,” Tumbey emphasized.
The Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Sector of Liberia has attracted both local and foreign miners owing to the limited barriers to entry in the sector, including limited expertise and equipment utilized and the income and livelihood the sector offers.
The sector is said to be a major source of livelihood for more than one hundred thousand (100,000) gold and diamond miners in Liberia who depend on it for income (World Bank, 2012).
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.
The limited capacity with respect to governance and regulation in the sector has rendered it a source of environmental pollution, conflict, and abuse of the rights of women and children.
ASM operatives work in an environment of crude, illegal, and nonproductive work activities, often resulting in various negative health, safety, security, environmental and socio-economic impacts that affect the miners and host communities.
Mitigating these impacts would require that there are adequate and enforceable regulations in place and that the regulatory institutions have the technical and institutional capacity to monitor mining activities in the sector. Liberia has developed a regulatory instrument for ASM to enhance participatory monitoring of the sector.
In the foreword of the ASM handbook, the Minister of Mines and Energy, Gesler E. Murray notes that the Ministry along with its partners hopes to improve the ASM sector by enhancing the government’s control over the sector making sure that the rights of all miners especially women and children are secured. “We also want to make sure that special areas can be set aside for artisanal mining and that artisanal miners are properly licensed,” said Murray.