The PanAfGeo project was created to train geoscience staff in the Organisation of African Geological Surveys to aid its mandate in leveraging geoscience and mineral resources for socio-economic development and poverty alleviation.
Environmental management is a shared focus of PanAfGeo and the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF). The IGF provides support to its member countries on environmental management in mining in accordance with its Mining Policy Framework and through its Guidance for Governments: Environmental Management and Mining Governance.
From 2016 to 2019, the IGF partnered with PanAfGeo to provide tailored trainings to member and non-member countries to further good practices for environmental management and sustainable development in mining.
Mineable deposits are located across Africa. Some of them are near or within communities, close to water sources, or within ecologically sensitive regions.
If these resources are not mined properly, detrimental and long-lasting environmental impacts can result, including contaminated drinking water, reduced local biodiversity, negative health impacts, and geotechnical instability.
Policy-makers also feel the effects of these challenges. Relationships between mining companies, governments, and communities can become strained as these risks arise or go unchecked.
Many governments or authorities have limited resources, and there’s a pressing need to increase knowledge and understanding of environmental management in Africa for the betterment of communities, environmental health, and the mining sector.
IGF has provided funding and resources to PanAfGeo to bolster their environmental management trainings.
Together, the partners hosted six workshops in English, French, and Portuguese in Botswana, Gabon, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tanzania. Participants were trained on how mining affects the environment, providing them with an in-depth understanding of how to prevent and mitigate these issues.
The trainings emphasized using geoscience to understand, predict, and prevent environmental damage caused by mining activities. IGF was well placed to help fill knowledge gaps for staff at African geological agencies on environmental risks in mining, governance opportunities, and sustainable development in Africa’s mineral sector.
In total, 123 participants from 35 countries were trained on improved environmental management practices in mining. Workshops ran for about a week and a half due to their unique structure: a traditional desk-based workshop coupled with field training for hands-on learning.
The traditional workshop portion dived into environmental management of operational and closed mines, as well as reviews and audits. Participants also learned how mine owners identify, manage, and track environmental obligations and risks.
Participants enriched their learning and deepened their understanding of these topics through the 5-day fieldwork portion. During these hands-on lessons, participants:
- Used smartphones to identify, map, and capture environmental risks at the mine
- Identified risks and non-compliance at operational and closed mine sites
- Witnessed and learned about acid mine drainage, along with other contaminants
- Identified and assessed potential environmental risks
- Learned reporting techniques for conveying this information to mine owners
Feedback from participants reflected positive learning experiences and highlighted the useful nature of the acquired knowledge.
“I became more useful for the Ministry in terms of environmental management of mines [following the training],” said Médard Prince Céleste Ndombi Dabondi, Geology Attaché to the Congolese Minister of Mines and Geology. He also explained how his enhanced understanding has led to changes in governance in his country. A new mining code will include closure and rehabilitation and ensure environmental management concerns are captured during the permitting process for mining operations.
For participants, knowledge development continued beyond the final day of training. Some formed a virtual group on the Goxi platform to further dialogue and peer learning on environmental management as they work to improve governance in geological agencies across the continent.