Guinea’s fast-growing bauxite mining industry is threatening the livelihoods of thousands of Guineans, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Thursday. According to the report, mining has destroyed ancestral farmlands, damaged water sources and coated homes and trees in dust.
The 146-page report, “What Do We Get Out of It?,” focuses on two mining projects that were Guinea’s two largest bauxite producers in 2017: La Société Minière de Boké (SMB), and la Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG)
Guinea’s government, which has transformed Guinea into the world’s third-largest exporter, should take immediate steps to better regulate companies and protect communities, the report says.
“Bauxite mining, unless properly regulated, threatens to destroy the way of life and livelihoods of dozens of communities at the front line of mining operations,” said Jim Wormington, West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The Guinean government’s focus on growing the bauxite sector has too often taken precedence over the protection of the environment and human rights.”
Guinea has an abundance of natural resources, including the world’s largest bauxite reserves, but remains one of the world’s poorest countries.
The demand for Guinean bauxite in global markets has increased in recent years as other countries, notably Indonesia and Malaysia, banned exports, in the latter case partly due to the industry’s environmental impact.
Guinea is already the biggest exporter of bauxite to China, the world’s largest aluminum producer. And with several new mining projects preparing to begin exports, Guinea’s bauxite boom shows no sign of slowing down.
Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 300 people in 30 mining-affected villages in the Boké region, the center of the bauxite boom, and conducted dozens of interviews with government officials, mining companies, civil society groups, environmental scientists and public health experts.
Human Rights Watch interviewed over 300 residents who have lost land to privately-owned mining developments.
Dozens of farmers described how mining companies take advantage of the government’s failure to protect rural land rights to exploit ancestral farmlands without compensation to address the long-term value of land to the community.
Since the passage of a 2011 mining code, the government has failed to pass regulations, required by the code, establishing compensation standards for land acquisition that could better protect farmers’ rights.
Source: Human Rights Watch