DAKAR, Senegal — An Amnesty International report released May 30, 2014 has revealed details of human rights violations in Senegal caused by the recent expansion of the mining industry and Senegalese gold rush.
Senegal has a substantial number of mineral reserves, including significant amounts of gold. In fact, last year Senegal was identified as the most desirable new destination for gold mining anywhere in the world. Amnesty’s report focused on the Kédougou region in southeast Senegal, which lies within one of the world’s largest gold belts.
Despite sitting on top of a literal gold mine, over 70 percent of Kédougou’s population lives below the international poverty line according to a report published last year. The majority of the population survives through subsistence farming, a profession entirely dependent on the land.
In order to bolster the mining sector and stimulate economic progress, the Senegalese government decided to encourage foreign investment, and adopted a law in 2003 incentivizing mining investment. This law, as well as the sky-rocketing price of gold in the last few years, helped produce the quick growth of Senegal’s gold mines.
This recent economic growth, while it may have lifted some out of poverty, has also had its problems.
According to Amnesty’s report, “Local communities have expressed a number of concerns about the expanding gold mining industry in Kédougou. Central to these concerns is the movement of people off land to make way for mining, and the loss of access to land and natural resources that form the basis of most people’s access to livelihood and food in the region.”
Forced evictions are occurring to make way for the expanding mining operations, pushing people off the land they’ve used to support themselves for years and into areas where subsistence farming is much more difficult to maintain, with less access to food and water.
Because Senegal is party to the U.N.’s International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the blatant absence of protections for locals in Senegal’s mining laws seems contradictory, and the abuses carried out by companies in the region violate international law.
The country’s mining legislation as it currently stands allows for people to be forcibly evicted from their homes without prior notice, and “without due regard for the impact on access to livelihoods, access to food and other economic, social and cultural rights.”
In order to remedy the situation, Amnesty recommends that Senegal revises its mining laws to follow U.N. standards on development-related evictions, that conversations about relocation include all involved parties and relocation’s do not weaken access to water or food and call for companies in the area to affirm a commitment to human rights.
As stated by Seydi Gassama, the Director of Amnesty International Senegal, “Human rights should never take second place to commercial interests and Senegal’s people should not have their land use rights sold from beneath their feet in the search for Senegal’s gold. The government must respect international law and take immediate steps to ensure human rights abuses do not occur.”
Sources: Amnesty International,BD Live
Photo: Begue Press