Dakar March, 8th 2015

By Moussa BA, Consultant

Email: bombolyba@yahoo.fr

Once reserved only for the responsible ministry and the Presidency, the mining and oil sector governance is inexorably opening to a variety of institutional and civil society stakeholders.

This opening fortunately coincides with the increased importance of the sector in the economic prospects of Senegal. In this regard, the sector is one of the six priority areas selected by the Programme Senegal Emergent (PSE) to raise the Senegalese economy growth rate to 7% over the next ten years with a specific objective to promote sustainable socio-economic development by pulling the sector out of enclave economy to turn it into a development tool.

This opening coincides with the application of Senegal to EITI process, which interest is no longer limited to a simple financial audit exercise to assess the actual revenues earned by the State from the mining sector, but covers all the links in the mining process value chain including the licensing of the sector operators, the mining operation, the collection and allocation of revenues, the closure and rehabilitation of sites after mining.

The opening of the sector occurs finally at a crucial time marked by the review of the 2003 mining code, with a stated will of authorities to shift from an attractive code to a win-win code with investors but also, hopefully, with affected communities whose rights have often been underestimated or ignored in the past.

Indeed, nowadays various actors organize themselves to provide support for a transparent, profitable and fair management of the mining, oil and gas sector contributing to the transformation of economic and social development in accordance with the African mining vision defined by the African Union.

This is the case for the civil society which has been advocating since 2003 for the rights of communities affected by mining operations and for a greater transparency in the sector through the NGO La Lumière and afterwards the Civil Forum, both supported by the international NGO OXFAM. These pioneering actions have thereafter resulted in the creation of a large coalition gathering various civil society other organizations with complementary intervention areas to better address the mining sector’s complexity. In this regard, it should be noted that the mining sector cuts across several sensitive issues related to opportunity cost analysis (often hidden before licensing), specific mining contract analysis and understanding, land ownership, environmental, social and health impacts, water and energy which are so rare and precious in our skies, taxation etc.

This monitoring approach of the civil society, negatively perceived for a long time, has eventually gained acceptance and appears as an audible and credible partner of government authorities, whose merit is to understand that inclusive management of public affairs in this 21th century is irreversible.

The civil society’s perspicacity in the monitoring of mining operations has led to the involvement of other institutional stakeholders to definitely break with centralized and exclusive management of the sector. This is the case for parliamentarians and local authorities representatives who have respectively set up a network for mineral resources governance.

So, for parliamentarians who will shortly be called upon to examine the new mining code under review, we can only welcome their mobilization to build their capacity to better understand sector-related issues. Even before examining the code, these parliamentarians have often voiced their concerns about the real added value of the exploitation of mining resources, considering the low revenues so far collected compared to the often negative impacts observed with affected communities.

For local authorities representatives, the powers transferred to them, especially in land and environmental area, give them the right to inspect the mining sector. Today they complain about suffering from the inconveniences of the mining industry without benefit. Even surface taxes do not benefit them. Whereas the equalization fund which is supposed to rebate a portion of the mining revenues earned by the State is not effectively allocated since the announcement of its establishment in 2011.

As part of its advisory mission on human rights to the State, the Senegalese Committee for Human Rights (SCHR) has also embarked on setting up an Observatory for Human Rights in mining areas in view of the dimension of reported complaints of human rights abuses against communities living in these areas

Eventually, it is important to welcome the creation of the Mining Chamber which will be a key partner to boost competition between mining companies in terms of compliance with the laws and regulations applicable in our country and the United Nations principles on business and human rights as well as sustainable development good practices promoted in the principles of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM). Specifically, it is highly expected from the Mining Chamber a guidance encouraging its members to meet their social responsibility (CSR) in accordance with recommended standards to break with sporadic social actions without significant impact.

The existence of these different institutional and civil society dynamics opens interesting perspectives of facilitation by the media of periodic «forums for information exchange» allowing Senegalese citizens to better understand how their mineral, oil and gas resources are governed.