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sharing in governance of extractive industries

Mining responsibly: Workshop in Liberia addresses voluntary standards

Workshop on Responsible Mining, Lisa Sumi/IRMA

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 some 30 representatives of ministries, civil society and companies met in February in the capital of Liberia, Monrovia. For a full day, they discussed examples of voluntary certifications that can make mining more sustainable: 'ResponsibleSteel', the 'Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance' (IRMA) and the 'Towards Sustainable Mining' (TSM) programme of the Mining Association of Canada. The workshop was organised in cooperation with the Regional Resource Governance in West Africa Project and the Sectoral Programme Extractives for Development of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

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. The three presented standards could be used by the mining sector in Liberia to provide this assurance, and to 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 non-transparent and thus not traceable to citizens. As a result, corporate investment is often seen as insufficient and unfair by the local population, but considered appropriate by companies. 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 discussed standards describe what responsible mining looks like and can contribute to more fairness and conflict resolution through their participatory mechanisms. They can provide orientation for commodity companies, bring about better practices and act as a platform for discussion thereof. To solve these problems, 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 and showed that there is still a long way to go. We thank the Liberian Ministry of Mines and Energy for the chance to contribute to the discussions at national Level.

For Information, please contact Marnie Bammert (Responsible Steel, mbammert@responsiblesteel.org) or Kim Schultze (GIZ Liberia; kim.schultze@giz.de).

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