Liberia: UNDP, EPA and Ministry of Mines Holds Multi-Stakeholders Workshop on Environmental Monitoring and Human Rights in the Artisanal & Small Scale Mining Sector

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Kakata, Margibi County – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Mines & Energy, and with support from the United Nations Development Program-UNDP through the Environmental Governance Programme funded by SIDA Monday began a two-day training workshop for multi-stakeholders including artisanal and small scale miners on Environment Monitoring and Human Rights.

The theme: “strengthening governance, human rights and environmental management for the artisanal mining sector in Liberia through user-friendly tools, awareness and capacity building,” is focused on enhancing the capacity of multi stakeholders for managing, monitoring, reporting and awareness to ensure improved environmental compliance. This training workshop will enhance the capacity of the stakeholders to monitor and report on environmental activities within their environment.

Representing the UNDP, the program Coordinator of UNDP-Liberia E. Abraham T. Tumbey Jr. noted that over the years the ASM sector has been identified by the Ministry of Mines as a sector with potential amidst the many challenges.

“They’ve engaged the UNDP for support in terms of how we can bring together partners to find a common solution in ensuring that the sector can remain not just relevant but that it can’t continue to be a source for negative human rights, gender and environmental issues,” Tumbey said.

Also speaking, the secretary-general of the Federation of Miners Association of Liberia (FOMAL) Abraham B. Gappie applauded the organizers for the event but called on all stakeholders present to take the issue of mining ‘Seriously’ because the harmful effects of mining may not only affect miners only but everyone one way or the other.

“This should not just be a national conversation; even if you are not a miner, your brother or sister and any of your relatives could be miners too,” stressed Gappie.

He, however, called on the Ministry of Gender, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Independent National Commission on Human Rights along with other international NGOs to be proactive and work efficiently along with the UNDP and the EPA to engage mining communities in participatory environmental monitoring across the country.

“Because as ASM actors, we have realized that to the various borders where we are actively operating, we have noticed that a lot of our refugee brothers from neighboring countries are heavily involved with the use of mercury which is dangerous to the environment,” explained Gappie.

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) was created by an Act of Legislation in 2003 with a mandate to ensure the protection, conservation, monitoring and sustainable use of the environment and its natural resources. The Agency ensures the enforcement of environmental regulations, standards and guidelines in collaboration with relevant institutions as required by the Environmental Protection and Management Law (EPML) of the Republic of Liberia.

Giving remarks, the Assistant Minister of Land, Mines and Energy, Johnson Willabo expressed gratitude for being a part of such collaboration and pointed out that artisanal and small scale mining-ASM is a challenge to the Mineral sector.

“Bigger mining concessions have a defined production area so to monitor is very easy but for the ASM their activities are widespread, being done illegally in most instances and being able to monitor them has been one of our greatest challenges,” stated Assist. Min. Wallibo.

Representing the EPA, the Energy and Environment Coordinator at the EPA, Salimatu Lamin Galiyeneh, thanked the UNDP, SIDA and the Ministry of Mines for the collaboration and called on the participants to be fully engaged and network so as to create easy access to information sharing relating to environmental degradation and ASM.

“We cannot over emphasized the work that we as Liberians need to do to not only protect and manage our natural resources but to be able find innovative measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change; our resources are quite good but if we do not sustainably manage them then we are going to impact our own lives negatively,”  she stressed.

Patricia Togba, Technical Assistant of the Department of Research and Planning at the Ministry of Gender said that she hopes at the end of the training the ASM sector will get rid of any forms of gender barriers and gender mainstreaming will be key on the list of recommendations.

Also, Bah-Wah Brownell, Director of the Department of Planning, Internal Monitoring and Evaluation unit at the Independent National Commission on Human Rights-INCHR noted that in line with the commission’s mandate to protect and promote human rights across the country; the INCHR looks forward to engaging with other stakeholders in the dialogue on how to improve the ASM sector.

Some key objectives of workshop include broadening the space for inclusion of human rights and gender in stakeholders in the ASM dialogue and working group, and proving a space through which communities, governments and civil society can engage in meaningful dialogue and partnership on ASM issues; and discussing on how to implement participatory environmental monitoring in Liberia.

The over 30 participants of the training workshop included representatives from Civil Society, Independent Human Rights Commission, Gender Ministry, Mining Cooperatives and the media.

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