Salone News

Sierra Leone: New organisation launches campaign for mining communities

By  | 8 October 2010 at 05:10 | 474 views

The rush to exploit Sierra Leone ’s mineral resources in the current post war days has created lots of negative impacts in mining communities, but an organization called Mining Associate Services (MAS) says it is going to champion the cause of these mining communities.

Some of many problems mining communities face include: environmental degradation, use of children in the mines, poverty as a result of deprivation of land to embark on agriculture, smuggling, lack of an effective development policy for mining communities to benefit from export of precious minerals, decline in education because of the irresistible temptations of mining for teenagers and constant relocation to new communities as mining companies take over new plots of lands.

Some organizations stood up in the past and served as voices for these deprived mining communities, but MAS says to attain objectives requires concerted efforts between organizations, stakeholders in the mining sector and the government.

The Patriotic Vanguard spoke to Foday T. Bayoh(photo) the Executive Director of Mining Associate Services, a community-based organization which has just been formed to champion the cause of mining communities.

PV: What motivated you to embark on championing the cause of mining communities?

Foday Bayoh: I have seen lots of problems in the mining communities. They made me unhappy. Take the case of the use of children in the mines. It’s very dangerous and does not augur well for their future. They should be going to school but spend most of their time in the mines.

PV: But critics would say it has been a traditional practice for parents to use their children in the mines or the children need to find money to help their parents.

FB: Well, just have a look at the national results in public exams. You will find out that children in other areas do well than those in the mining communities. The performance in mining communities is always very bad, because they spend most of their time in the mines. If people turn a blind eye on the use of children in the mines, this will give scope to miners to use them because they offer cheap labour. And when the children have been used to earn money in the mines, when they do not get such opportunity, they resort to criminality.

PV: You are also advocating for the welfare of residents in mining areas.

FB: Yes, I have observed that the way and manner mining is carried out causes environmental degradation. Large pools are created after mining activities, they breed mosquitoes that help to spread malaria and deprive them from cultivating crops on those portions of land. In extreme cases whole communities have to be relocated when mining companies want to embark on deep mining. Such activities also destroy the flora and fauna. When you go to the mining communities, you see hunger written on the faces of the people. You will tend to ask ‘Is this the place where the precious minerals are taken from?’

PV: What other problems have you discovered?

FB: There is lack of quality medical services, quality educational facilities and even opportunity for teenagers to enter tertiary institutions. The rate of school dropouts is high in mining areas and it is arguably the highest in the country. The problem is more pathetic for the girl child.

PV- Talking about agricultural productivity, what do you think should be done?

Foday-There should be a land reclamation system. But you will find out that the same portions of land are mined over and over spanning decades, making it difficult or impossible for agricultural activities to take place. This tells you that there is a need for an intervention. That is exactly what we are doing.

PV- How would you resolve the problems you have identified?

Foday- We shall organize workshops involving traditional leaders, policy makers, line ministries, miners and mine owners, local government authorities, parents and children. It will be an interface wherein each side would come out with their concerns, priorities, ambitions, expectations and needs. We shall also collaborate with international NGOs, inter-governmental institutions and international organizations.

PV- You have expressed concern on the educational status of children in mining areas, do you think there is hope for them to enter tertiary institutions?

Foday- We aim to have a scholarship scheme through which they will be enabled to enter tertiary institutions. We shall also advocate for a new development policy for mining areas so as to make the communities benefit more from mining companies.

PV- You have not said anything about mine workers

Foday- They are of primary concern to us. We shall advocate for better conditions like medical facilities. There is one important issue I want you to know , we shall intervene to settle disputes between miners and mine workers. We shall not be there to widen the gap between them but to bring them closer and create an amicable an appreciable relationship so as to enhance peace in mining communities. We shall work closely with organizations whose aims and objectives are similar to us. For short MAS stands to bring better life to mining communities and make them also appreciate the efforts of mine owners to develop the communities.