Creation of Sierra Leone’s first formal gold mining association for responsible trading

Posted 21 hours ago

Proposed by Pact

Gold panning in Bolaneh. Credit: Jorden de Haan/Pact.

Sierra Leone’s burgeoning artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector provides critical livelihoods to women and young men in a place where viable income-generating options are scarce. But the country’s ASGM sector is also largely informal and associated with a series of serious social and environmental problems, including the use of mercury.

In response, the government of Sierra Leone has developed a National Action Plan (NAP) to reduce the use of mercury in the ASGM sector, through formalization, introduction of best mining practices and improvement market access, and promoting gender equality in ASGM communities. With a project called Piloting NAP Implementation in Sierra Leone, funded by BMZ through GIZ, Pact is helping kick-start the plan, and in recent months, working side-by-side with local communities, we have made notable progress in Tonkolili district, where significant ASGM activity takes place.

Most notably, with the support of Pact, an ambitious group of miners registered with the Tonkolili District Council as the country’s first formal ASGM association, the Bolaneh Gold Miners and Traders Association, or BMTA. As Jorden de Haan de Pact explained in the UN Formalization Manual and in the Sierra Leone NAP (which de Haan helped the Environmental Protection Agency to design), it is about an important first step in the formalization process, essential to help miners build the administrative, social structures and financial capital required to navigate this tedious process and gradually adopt better mining methods.

With local support from Pact – led by our National Coordinator Joseph Smith – BMTA adopted a constitution outlining the association’s mission and vision statements and operating rules, and opened a bank account. Additionally, during a recent visit by Pact’s international team of ASGM experts, we helped BMTA secure three artisanal mining licenses, covering their entire mine site.

While the full professionalization of informal mining remains a work in progress, it has been wonderful to see this community take the first key steps towards completing what we have initiated together. In a sign that BMTA is truly embracing responsible mining, the group recently removed a dangerous “suspended wall” over its mining trench, dramatically improving occupational health and safety by reducing the risk of mine collapse. pit. This is just the beginning of what is possible and what will be needed through a holistic formalization process.

We are also helping the community prepare for the installation of a mineral processing facility. Pact contracted with a company to build the processing plant in Bolaneh and, together with BMTA, identified and cleared land for the facility. Additionally, we have begun sourcing and locally manufacturing mercury-free mineral processing equipment, which will be installed in the processing plant once it is built.

Pact also engaged BMTA in risk assessment and management, through an Excel template we developed based on the CRAFT code. This exercise involves a comprehensive assessment of social, financial, governance, safety and environmental risks at and around the mine site, and outlines actions to manage them for progressive improvement and compliance with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance and the EU Conflict Minerals Regulation. Pact and BMTA are currently developing a mine plan in conjunction with our CRAFT program, to outline detailed steps for managing identified environmental and health risks.

Finally, in another milestone of the project, Pact organized a workshop on responsible gold trading with policy makers, gold miners, traders and civil society organizations in Freetown, which was considered by participants as an introduction to Sierra Leone where such public discussions have mainly taken place. in the context of the country’s diamond sector. The March workshop focused on raising awareness of national and international regulations on gold trading with the support of the National Minerals Agency, and collecting input from stakeholders on concrete actions to promote responsible gold trading in Sierra Leone, which we are now compiling into a report with recommendations. for decision makers.

While continued support is needed to maintain and expand our impact, Pact is pleased with the significant progress the ASGM community has made so far, and we look forward to continuing to work together to boost the formal production and trade of gold in Sierra Leone.

For more information, check out the project’s April update bulletin and this fact sheet.

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Pact is an international nonprofit that works in nearly 40 countries to build evidence-based, data-driven, and community-owned human development solutions. Founded in 1971, Pact works with partners to build resilience, improve accountability, and build knowledge and skills for lasting social impact.

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