Mapping and Assessing the Environmental and Health Impacts of Abandoned Mines in Sub-Saharan Africa

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 Abandoned mine in Nigeria, artisanal mining
© Gbenga Okunlola 2013

UNESCO invites researchers to submit proposals for projects examining the various aspects of the environmental and health impacts of mining activities in sub-Saharan African countries, with special focus on abandoned mines. The overall goal is to produce scientific knowledge that will help decision makers to improve the management of adverse effects of mining activities. Deadline for project proposals: 31 December 2015.

An important advancement in the mining sector is the legal obligation for mining companies to rehabilitate former operational mine sites and ensure that the sites are restored to a safe environmental state after closure. While this concept is well rooted in mining legislation in many developed countries, this is not always the case in developing countries, especially in Africa.

Apart from poor environmental governance, many African countries lack a precise assessment of the impacts of old mining activities in their territories. Therefore, the assessment of the true extent of the detrimental effects of metal pollutants from old mining sites and their impact on the ecosystem as well as on human and animal health is crucial. It’s a prerequisite for appropriate legislation development and enforcement.

In order to help decision makers improve the management of adverse effects of mining activities, UNESCO invites scientists from a variety of fields, including geoscientists, environmentalists, biologists, medical scientists, and social scientists, to propose projects that look into the various aspects of the environmental and health impacts of mining activities in sub-Saharan African countries. The project proposals should specifically address one or more of the following objectives:

  • To understand how past, present and future mining activities negatively affect ecosystems and health of the adjacent communities. This includes the mapping of present distribution of abandoned mine sites in the country and field works on targeted mine sites to assess the potential threats on environment (soil, surface and ground water, vegetation and crops) as well as animal and communities living around the mine sites);
  • To identify, through experimentation, the most appropriate rehabilitation technologies and remedial actions for sites contaminated by trace metals from mining. This project intends to have a special focus on phyto-rehabilitation;
  • To use science-based evidences to influence policies on issues of abandoned mines. It is important that local stakeholders (government officials, mining enterprises and local communities, and interested NGOs and associations) are involved and support the project, and facilitate the implementation of the outcomes. Policy Briefs to decision-makers and other interested stakeholders are expected to be an important outcome of the proposal dealing with this objective.

More information on the call for proposals to Map and Assess the Environmental and Health Impacts of Abandoned Mines in Sub-Saharan African Countries (pdf)

Project proposals should reach David Nyang’acha no later than 31 December 2015, using the proposal template (pdf).

Selection will take place in February 2016 and successful applicants will be informed by early March 2016.

This call for proposals is part of a special project of the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) called “Environmental and Health Impacts of Abandoned Mines in Sub-Saharan African Countries”, which originated from two IGCP projects, IGCP-594 “Impact of Mining on the Environment in Africa” and IGCP-606 “Addressing environmental and health impacts of major and abandoned mines in Sub-Saharan Africa”. For over forty years, the International Geosciences Programme (IGCP) has brought geoscientists together from all regions of the world to study the Earth and geological processes under themes which have increasing societal relevance, such as disaster risk reduction, the reasoned use of mineral resources and climate change.

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