As Sierra Leone looks to attract a new wave of mining investment in order to boost its economic profile, bringing water mine management standards in line with global best practices has become a priority.
Government officials, academia, general citizens and companies have all become committed to improving standards with regards to water management in mining. As a key player in regulation implementation, the country’s Environment Protection Agency monitors and coordinates the environmental policy throughout the country. Certain laws must be taken into account in the environmental and social impact industries, but up until now some mines have been exempt from meeting requirements. This is no longer the case.
One of the main concerns with regards to this topic is ensuring that mining operations do not impact negatively on water supply to nearby villages. Many rural areas of Sierra Leone rely on shallow groundwater resources for their water, which can be easily affected by mining activities. As well as the people, this can also have an impact on aquatic wildlife if contaminated water reaches wetlands.
One way the country has decided to address its mining issues is by installing monitoring boreholes in advance of expansions, to allow baseline data to be collected by water monitoring equipment. This can then be used as reference in the future. Chemistry students from the University of Sierra Leone are involved with the monitoring process, giving a practical element to their studies. Other scientists at the University are eager to put their skills to good use in this economically vital area, applying a level of skill to mitigating any negative impacts that mining could bring to the country and its environment.
There is certainly no lack of commitment or motivation from the people of Sierra Leone when it comes to improving their mining practices and minimising damage to their water quality. If the country’s mining sector is to prosper without having a negative impact on the people and wildlife that live in the country, then implementing and enforcing environmental regulations is vital.