Mining and the Social Environment in West Africa

October 14, 2014

Investment in extractive industries remains the most important driver of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa. And with it comes high expectations. Yet where mining and mineral extraction operations occur in remote rural areas, their environmental impact continues to be closely associated with poverty. Dealing with this appropriately requires recognizing the poverty–environment nexus and the role of natural resources as the “GDP of the poor”. Innovative solutions for Africa include the use of community-based resource management and governance arrangements such as bio-cultural community protocols.

When considering social aspects associated with the environmental impacts of the extractive industry, it is useful to acknowledge the ecosystem services that nature supplies to humans. These services have been categorized by scientists under the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) as (i) supporting services, (ii) provisioning services, (iii) regulating services, and (iv) cultural services. And they all feed different aspects of human well-being. Defining these helps to unpack the meaning of the phrases “natural resource base” or “the land” that local communities refer to when debating the costs and benefits of extractive industry operations entering their world.

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