UN Backs Conference on Africa Mining Communities

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(Rapaport…July 4, 2006) The United Nations (UN) backed a three day ministerial conference on small-scale miners in West Africa, reported the UN News Centre on July 3. The conference took place in Monrovia, Liberia, and highlighted the problems of poor mining communities which often do not have alternative sources of income. According to the report, nearly half a million small-scale miners are engaged in diamond mining in West Africa.

“The background paper that was presented to this conference talks about anywhere between 250,000 and 500,000 diggers,” said Steven Ursino, Liberia country director for the UN Development Programme (UNDP,) which organized the three-day conference with Liberia and the non-governmental organization (NGO,) International Alert. “That’s a sizeable population.”

“And when you look at that within the context of their families and communities, then we’re talking about how diamonds can impact the natural resources of Liberia, as well as the other countries of the Mano River Union,” Ursino commented, referring to the sub-region that also includes Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, which also had representatives at the conference.

International Alert estimates that diggers working in these pits produce over 90 percent of West Africa’s diamond output, worth between $240 million and $300 million per year.

Participants in the Monrovia conference agreed to create a task force that will focus upon the future development of communities dependent on the alluvial mining sector.

The UNDP says that its Diamonds for Development program complements other initiatives similar to the UN Security Council embargoes and the Kimberley Process, which are designed to ensure that diamond sales in the region do not finance conflicts.

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