Safety, security of mining operations key for W/A economic growth — Kan-Dapaah
THE government has maintained that the safety and security of mining operations is paramount for West Africa’s economic growth.
It therefore stressed the need for cooperation to secure West Africa's mining future and contribute to a region that thrives in peace, stability and prosperity.
The Minister for National Security, Albert Kan-Dapaah, said this in an address read on his behalf at the opening of the third West Africa Mining Security (WAMS) conference in Accra last Wednesday (September 20) on the theme: “Operating in Challenging Environments”.
“Together, we can cultivate an environment of trust, transparent communication, and cooperation, enhancing security efforts and promoting sustainable development,” he said.
The minister explained that West Africa, with its abundant mineral wealth and untapped potential, holds the key to the prosperity of its nations and the broader global economy.
However, the region faces numerous security threats and operational risks.
“From the spillover of terrorism from the Sahel to concerns about porous borders and the evolving dynamics of Salafi-Jihadi insurgent groups, our mining industry operates in an ever-evolving security environment,” he said.
The two-day conference was organised by the Australian High Commission in partnership with Australia-Africa Minerals and Energy Group (AAMEG), Atlantic Lithium and the Perenti Group.
It brought together academia, security practitioners and experts in the mining industry across Africa to discuss regional security trends and operational challenges.
It also provided mining and exploration managers and security professionals with current information on regional security developments and best practice risk mitigation strategies to inform security and investment decisions in West Africa.
The theme, he said, recognised the difficulties in navigating local mining spaces, the susceptibility of the sector to global economic shocks, the role of the sector in terrorism financing and political instability, and the complex interdependency between mining and communal or civil conflicts.
For instance, he said, in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, mining-induced conflicts fuelled civil wars and political instability.
That, he said, confirmed a World Bank finding that “countries which have a substantial share of their Gross Domestic Product coming from the export of primary commodities are at more risk of conflict,” particularly during periods of economic decline.
“Amidst these challenges, mining security is not a luxury or an afterthought but a necessity. The commonality of the challenges, particularly political instability, illegal mining activities, and community conflicts prompt concerted and collaborative measures toward sustainable mining operations.
Our success lies in addressing these challenges head-on and working towards comprehensive solutions,” he said.
The Australian High Commissioner, Berenice Owen-Jones, emphasised the Australian government’s support to programmes helping regional countries facing pressures from the spread of terrorism.
“Specifically, we have invested over AUD8 million in counter terrorism programming in Africa, including to the International Counter-Terrorism Academy in Cote d’Ivoire to research and deliver training in countering terrorism threats,” she said.
She said her outfit was funding Ghana’s West Africa Centre for Counter-Extremism to deliver a grass-roots programme aimed at preventing violent extremism in northern Ghana and mining communities.
“We are supporting improved livelihoods to maintain stability across the Sahel through investment in the World Food Programme’s Integrated Resilience to the Sahel Programme,” she added.
For his part, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AAMEG, Roger Staley, underscored the importance of strengthening Australia-Africa engagement in the mining sector.
He noted that currently USD12.8 billion had been invested by Australian mining companies in West Africa.