Mining responsibly: Workshop in Liberia addresses voluntary standards

Mining responsibly: Workshop in Liberia addresses voluntary standards

The West African country of Liberia has large raw material reserves but is still one of the poorest countries in the world. One of the reasons for this is the unsustainable extraction of raw materials, causing social and ecological damage. Voluntary standards, supported by relevant stakeholder groups, can help address this situation.

At the invitation of the Ministry of Mines and Energy and in cooperation with GIZ, some 30 representatives of ministries, civil society and companies met in February in the capital of Liberia, Monrovia. For a full day, they discussed ‘ResponsibleSteel’, the ‘Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance’ (IRMA) and the ‘Towards Sustainable Mining’ (TSM) programme of the Mining Association of Canada, and the potential contribution of these programmes to sustainable mining in the country.

The Liberian government wants to ensure that the country’s resource sector is attractive to foreign investors and has little impact on the environment. The current review of Liberia’s Minerals and Mining Law provides an opportunity to ensure that the country’s mines are prepared for the future and meet the expectations of stakeholders in terms of environmental, social and governance aspects. Responsibility along the supply chain is becoming increasingly important worldwide. Consumers and buyers want to be sure that the minerals and metals in their products have been mined responsibly and have not contributed to human rights abuses or environmental damage. Voluntary certification could provide this assurance, and support the process of drafting the new Minerals and Mining Law.

The discussion among the workshop participants revealed Liberia’s complex challenges: For example, fees paid by companies for environmentally and socially sound development are managed through state channels that are not transparent to citizens. As a result, corporate investment may be considered appropriate by companies and yet seem insufficient and unfair to the local population. In the absence of interventions by the local government, the population is left with the feeling that they are not profiting from the lucrative business of mining. The three standards programmes describe what responsible mining looks like and could contribute to greater fairness and conflict resolution through their participatory mechanisms. Ultimately, however, coordinated efforts are needed on the part of the state, civil society and the companies involved.

The animated discussions demonstrated Liberia’s great interest in a profitable and responsible mining sector. We thank the Liberian Ministry of Mines and Energy for the chance to contribute to the discussions at national level, and GIZ for its support for our work and tireless efforts to make the workshop a success.

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