President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone says a new paradigm is needed to curb the illegal mining of the region’s natural resources through the strengthening of the existing legal and regulatory framework applicable to the sector in Member States of the Community.
With the mining sector contributing about five per cent to the exports of many Member States, the President said that the States have not been able to reap the immense economic potentials of their natural resource endowments because of the activities of illegal miners resulting in the annual loss of millions of dollars in revenue.
“There are opportunities for the future development of new uranium deposits in Niger, iron ore in Guinea and Senegal, Bauxite in Guinea, Gold in Mali, Ghana and Burkina Faso and even Phosphate in Mauritania,” the President said while opening the last parliamentary seminar of the fifth legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament in Freetown, Sierra Leone on Wednesday, 31st January 2024.
He said that natural resources has become very important to the economies of Africa countries citing Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali, Mauritania and Niger as among those countries whose economies are heavily dependent on such resources.
President Bio said that the losses from the mining sector are compounded by the lack of agricultural land, pollution and environmental degradation and the challenges of insecurity through banditry and insurgency as well as terrorist financing.
He pointed out that Sierra Leone has a first hand experience of the devastating effect of illegal mining with the country’s once pristine landscape despoiled by unregulated mining activities, deforestation, water pollution and loss of biodiversity without ignoring the concomitant loss of government revenue.
Because of the transnational nature of illegal mining, the President said that a coordinated regional response is imperative although the country has tackled the menace head on by streamlining the licensing process, improving on the monitoring mechanism and clamping down on illegal mining operations.
In addition, he said the government is investing in education and skills development programmes for those involved in illegal mining without ignoring the imperative of collective action. Moreover, he said the country was working with the partners through sharing of best practices, intelligence, resources and combating illegal mining across borders.
He urged the Parliament to lead the process for the needed collective action through the strengthening of legal frameworks, cross border cooperation and investment in sustainable mining practices that will be beneficial to the economies of the Member States. Moreover, he urged them to address the trigger such as poverty, lack of alternative source of livelihoods and weak governance
President Bio paid tribute to the outgoing Speaker of the Parliament and his four deputies for the activism of the institution during the four years of the fifth legislature.
He added that by hosting its final seminar in Freetown, the process has come full circle as the first of the seminars of the fifth legislature was also held in the capital in March 2021.
Three presentations and two panel discussions will be held during the three day seminar which is on the theme Illegal mining and its implications in the region.