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

Over the weekend, stakeholders in the mining and environmental sectors reviewed portions of the draft mining law of Liberia relevant to artisanal miners and their stakeholders and provided input.

The Liberia Minerals and Mining Law of 2000 is obsolete and doesn’t meet current-day realities.

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 and economic growth and the livelihoods 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 the 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, which 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 dialogue and engagement that brings together stakeholders from different institutions, including the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia, civil society organizations, the Independent Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, and the Ministry of Justice. Together, they can carve a roadmap and a suitable way to ensure that artisanal mining can be sustained in the long term.

At the conclusion of the validation meeting, Assistant Mines and Energy Minister Johnson Willabo emphasized that artisanal and small-scale mining activities have been widespread, destructive, and have left a negative environmental footprint.

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 be done sustainably so that generations unborn can inherit something.”

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

“With these high-level targets, mines and energy are placed between the rock and the high place.””While we are pushing to raise more revenue for the national envelope, we are cognizant of the fact that we must remain committed to keeping the environment as protected as possible,” he said.

Assistant Minister Willabo lauded participants and said the ministry would remain engaged with them until the new mining law reaches the president’s desk, is reviewed by the cabinet and is 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 the “Class C” mining sector is a major challenge for Liberia and is even prevalent 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 will 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 on the right trajectory.

Mr. Massah noted that the inclusion of the 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 the 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 the environmental imprints created by mining.

The one-day validation meeting was organized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the 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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