Diamond Mining and Environmental Policy and Regulations

4 February 2008 at 10:50 | 2862 views

By Ahmed Ojulla Bangura.

Diamond mining, like any other form of mining in Sierra Leone has caused environmental, economic and social discord in mining regions in Sierra Leone. The impacts have become a crisis when environmental and social costs overwhelmingly supersede economic gain. As a result of these costs, effective and efficient environmental policies are required to mitigate or eradicate the negative impacts of diamond mining.

The political and economic schools exploiting our vast diamond resources have greedily and vehemently ignored the plight of inhabitants of diamond mining communities. Their tribal rulers, mining enforcement institution and national hegemony have betrayed them for selfish reasons. Contracts have been signed with no social responsible investing. The land (in economic term) is valued more that the people. Such greedy and unpatriotic actions do not take into account present and future costs for all generations. No wonder, therefore the situation is vividly seen in all mining areas in Sierra Leone. To say the least, every mining town and village is symbolised by wide and deep pits to social issues like housing, health and sanitation, despite national political jurisdiction over mining towns and villages.

There are mining laws and policies in Sierra Leone governing diamond mining regulations but, they seem ineffective and inefficient due to endemic greedy and blemish implementation. Since 1930 to present day, from independence to military coups and democracies, mining policies have been enacted for implementation. Yet the environmental and social problems that started decades ago still continue. The reason could be that the laws are either inadequately enacted to redress the predicament of environmental and socio-economic shocks or lack moral and ethical implementation.

Policies are always enacted by policy makers to regulate and resolve mining activities done by companies and problems faced by miners and inhabitants in mining communities. But the nature or structure of policies matters greatly.
In Sierra Leone, the initial mining policies enacted and implemented to remedy environmental problems seem tactical, reactive, and piecemeal (Traditional paradigm). The paradigm calls for government to intervene through regulation or command and control to curb environmental impacts. This is an attempt by government to control the behaviour of businesses or general public through legal instruments and other policy instruments. The government sets out standards to be followed by businesses and employ state authorities and legal system to enforce the rules. Even though it is not the only type of policy instrument, it is obvious that the government of Sierra Leone adopts such a policy instrument. But does the government of Sierra Leone enforce policy? If so, why diamond mining policies are ineffective?

It is obvious that the government of Sierra Leone (past to say the least) set up institutions to oversee the implementation of environmental regulations. But maintaining these institutions is not only cost ineffective and time wasting but lack adequate resource allocation and distribution. The little resources allocated are progressively corrupted to have a retrogressed impact in the quest for just and sustainable mining activities in Sierra Leone.

The diamond mining policies in Sierra Leone may lack both precautionary and remedial actions. This is evident of the overwhelming reality unfolding in every nook and cranny of mining communities in Sierra Leone. This is because from contracts of exploration to extraction there is neither precautionary measure nor resilient measure undertaking in Sierra Leone diamond mining activities. Mining is done without any of the above environmental tools.

In addition, Sierra Leone’s diamond mining regulatory policies are subjected to administrative dilemma. Mining regulators have institutionalised corrupt mining practices. Hence, the indicator of mining malfunction is evidence of high level of smuggling of gem stones, socio-economic shocks and environmental degradation.

However, a breach of diamond mining regulations should follow litigation. The enforcement of such regulations relies on judicial or administrative procedures to achieving environmental policies good for all mining communities and the country as a whole. The purpose of the legal aspect of mining regulatory policies is to inhibit the arbitrary and excessive implementation of policies by mining regulators and mining activities of businesses and impacts on miners and communities. On the contrary, it has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt that neither political nor judicial forum has helped to redress the degrading diamond mining misfortune in Sierra Leone.

Hence, viable environmental policies for sustainable diamond mining activities can be achieved through firm political dispensation, adequate policies, institutional reforms, and community inclusion and participation in every aspect and level of mining activities in diamond regions.