Scientific article

Special issue: Environmental, Health and Social legacies of mining activities in Sub-Saharan Africa

Published inJournal of Geochemical Exploration, vol. 209, 106441
Publication date2020

Over > 40 years of implementation of the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP), a partnership and flagship programme between UNESCO and the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), UNESCO realized that the involvement of Africa both in terms of projects devoted to the continent and leadership, was marginal. Between 2011 and 2013, UNESCO collaborated with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to support capacity-building activities aiming to increase the participation of Africa in IGCP. From this exercise, two projects (UNESCO/Sida IGCP-594 and IGCP-606) emerged as a research networking platform between scientists from Africa and Europe on the environmental and health challenges of mining activities in Africa. At the end of their implementation, the two projects jointly prepared and published a Special Issue on “Impacts of mining and mineral processing on the environment and human health in Africa” in the Journal of Geochemical Exploration in 2014 edited by Kříbek et al. (2014). However, it was obvious that the challenges facing African countries as a result of mining activities go well beyond simple IGCP projects, and need extensive mobilisation in terms of human re- sources, laboratory facilities and fund raising. The success of two major IGCP projects (IGCP-594 and IGCP-606) encouraged UNESCO to enter into a new Programme Cooperation Agreement with Sida for the period 2014–2018 to support an expanded project entitled “Mapping and Assessing the Environmental and Health Impacts of Abandoned Mines in Sub- Saharan African Countries”. The project aimed to reduce the adverse effects of mining activities on the ecosystem and health of adjacent communities while, at the same time, promote a peaceful mining atmosphere among industry, authorities and local communities. An important advancement in the mining sector is the legal ob- ligation for mining companies to rehabilitate former operational mine sites and ensure that they are restored to a safe environmental state after the mine is closed. While this concept is well rooted in mining legislation in many developed countries, this is not always the case in developing countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Apart from poor environmental governance as highlighted in the Africa Mining Vision, many African countries lack a precise inventory and assessment of abandoned and derelict mines. It is therefore important to make an assessment of the true extent of the detrimental effects of metal and metalloid pollutants and their impact on human and animal health, as well as on ecosystems. This is a pre-requisite for appropriate legislation development and enforcement. This new project intended to provide crucial scientific knowledge that will contribute to understanding of the factors that control cycling of pollutants from abandoned mines in soils, water and vegetation and the impact on the food chain. Development of appropriated technologies to mitigate environmental risk associated with mining activities was also at the heart of the project. Furthermore, influencing policies, training, education and awareness focusing on communities involved or living around mine sites were important aspects of the project. We anticipate that the results of the project will be used to improve the environmental norms in individual countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the efficiency of governments in addressing the challenges related to the adverse effects of abandoned mines. The new project builds on a strong network of > 100 scientists working on 29 sites in 17 African countries, with focus on field assessment of pollution (soil, water, crops, health of human and animals), rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems, and policy issues for the attention of communities and governments. For the monitoring of the project, UNESCO put in place a scientific board composed of international experts in this field, some of whom have served as Co-Guest Editors of this Special Issue. An important meeting took place in April 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya, where all project leaders met with the members of the scientific board to evaluate the progress of the project. A key resolution by participants of this meeting was the preparation of another Special Issue to avail the new research contributions to the scientific community.

  • Autre - UNESCO Grant Number 4500268879 - Programme Cooperation Agreement with Sida 2014- 2018
Citation (ISO format)
TOTEU, Sadrack Felix et al. Special issue: Environmental, Health and Social legacies of mining activities in Sub-Saharan Africa. In: Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 2020, vol. 209, p. 106441. doi: 10.1016/j.gexplo.2019.106441
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0375-6742

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