Participant in consultations organized by ABA ROLI and Centre du Commerce International pour le Développement voices her concerns over the impact of mining on her community.
“I refused to sign the papers they brought me,” said the local chief of a community most known today for its proximity to significant deposits of iron ore in Guinea—a country estimated to have upwards of 3 billion tons of the coveted mineral. Referring to a community development agreement he says was developed unilaterally by a mining company and imposed on the village that he has governed for decades, the chief conveys his frustration with what he views as a mining process that fails to consider the needs and views of surrounding communities. The chief and his community recognize that mining has the potential to generate revenue, to boost local economy, to develop the country’s infrastructure and to improve the quality of life of ordinary Guineans. Yet, like a growing number of communities affected by increased large-scale mining in the country, they feel that corporations and Guinean authorities have not done enough to protect the livelihoods and sustainability of those communities most directly impacted by the social and environmental footprint.
With an estimated one-third of the world’s proven reserves of bauxite, 200 million tons of gold and sizeable quantities of diamonds, uranium and petroleum, Guinea is uniquely rich in natural resources. Its troubled history, characterized by a succession of authoritarian governments that ruthlessly suppressed opposition and entrenched corruption and impunity, however, has not allowed the country to use this wealth to address its serious social and economic development needs or to alleviate poverty in any significant way.
For Guinea’s first democratically elected president, Alpha Conde, the country’s vast resource wealth is a vehicle for development. As part of the ongoing mining sector reform the president launched in 2011, Guinea adopted a mining code in September. Guinean officials are currently working on accompanying legislation.
In July 2012, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, began to work with the Centre du Commerce International pour le Développement (CECIDE), to provide technical support to the legislative drafting efforts of relevant Guinean ministries. To help ensure that the Guinean legislative framework incorporates sufficient protections for local communities, ABA ROLI and CECIDE are assisting the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization and the Ministry of Agriculture on key issues that the mining code covers, including standards on community development agreements, on the establishment of local development funds, on environmental and social impact assessments, and on compensation and resettlement of local populations. As a key step in this process, ABA ROLI is conducting community consultations to inform local populations of ongoing legislative reforms, and to encourage them to add their voices to the process.
During consultations in Forecariah earlier this month, communities lamented that they had not had an opportunity to meet with mining company representatives or government officials to discuss their concerns. They said major mining projects are having serious effects on their daily lives, including the degradation of resources such as ground water, the loss of farming and grazing land and the displacement of local populations without adequate compensation. Referring to the ABA ROLI-organized community consultations, a resident said, “This is the first time we are having one-on-one discussions about our future—a future on-hold—since no one cares about us here.”
Throughout Guinea, local populations have little knowledge of their rights and of how to enforce them. In some cases, they have employed violent and disruptive means to voice their frustration. ABA ROLI strives to help ensure that the rule of law will foster an environment that is both conducive to economic development and protective of the basic human rights and needs of surrounding communities.
To learn more about our work in Guinea, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].