sharing in governance of extractive industries

Improving livelihoods through cooperation and regulation in small-scale mining? - Mining Cooperatives in Western Liberia

In April 2018, 15 miners were awarded with a certificate making them the third cooperative in Liberia. The eleven men and four women from Kawallahum, close to the Sierra Leonean border, formed the “Mano River Kongo Mining & Agricultural Multipurpose Cooperative Society”. As licensed diamond miners, they were trained on how to (financially) manage and lead a cooperative over the past two months.

Gold and diamond mining are sources of livelihood for more than 100,000 miners in the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) sector in Liberia.[1] However, the ASM sector is largely unregulated with less than 5 % of miners holding a mining license. Artisanal miners all over the world are a vulnerable group. Mining often takes place in insecure and environmentally harmful ways with a high risk of human rights violations.[2] A lack of other employment opportunities and development perspectives is associated with mining communities.


Moreover, the smuggling of precious minerals is significant. Looking at diamonds only, it is estimated that around USD90 million worth of diamonds have been exported from Liberia in the past three years.[3] From this amount, the Liberian government was only able to recover approximately 3 % in royalties. In reality the export value must be even higher since diamonds which are currently being smuggled to neighboring countries such as Guinea and Sierra Leone are not being accounted for. Neither the Liberian government, nor the artisanal miners themselves benefit from the resources in a way that supports continuous (local) development.

Hopes are high. Cooperatives were identified by the Regulatory Roadmap for Artisanal Mining Sector in Liberia as an instrument to increase the traceability of gold and diamonds in order to prevent smuggling and ensure that the miners themselves as well as the Liberian government receive their fair share. At the same time, they can initiate community development and local economic growth by providing an income to rural communities. In the long-run, a successful cooperative can increase incomes for the miners and provide job perspectives for the local community beyond the mining sector.

The roadmap was developed in 2016 with the support of the Regional Resource Governance in West Africa (ReGo) Programme, funded by German Development Cooperation and Australian Aid and implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. Since then, the ReGo Programme has been working closely with the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) as well as the Cooperative Development Agency (CDA) of Liberia on the development and implementation of a training curriculum aiming to support the establishment of cooperatives for miners. The UN Mission to Liberia (UNMIL) joined these efforts and supported the CDA in the establishment of the first two mining cooperatives in line with their requirements in February 2018.

Discussions on formalizing the ASM sector have gained traction in the past years in Liberia and spurring efforts can have huge developmental potential. It is expected that lessons learnt from these pilot cooperatives will inform policy and decision-making processes on ASM. As the next immediate step, the GIZ ReGo Programme will support the cooperative with a technical training on environmental standards in mining as well as health and safety practices. In the long-run, the GIZ ReGo Programme  will provide follow-up support to the new cooperative and look into further fields of the ASM Roadmap such as improving the taxation of the artisanal mining sector and developing strategies to work with small-scale miners in protected areas.

Link to the Project Website  ‘Regional Resource Governance in West Africa

Contact: Jenkins Flahwor (jenkins.flahwor@giz.de) and Kim Schultze (kim.schultze@giz.de)

[1] http://www.artisanalmining.org/Inventory/

[2] IIED, online, here.

[3] Ministry of Commerce and Industry, online, here.

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Comment by Amy Sandhu on May 24, 2018 at 15:29

Very pleased to see that recommendations from the Regulatory Roadmap have resulted in concrete outcomes on the ground! Best wishes to the Kawallahum mining cooperative, and for the ongoing success of GIZ ReGO programme's valuable work in Liberia:) 


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