31st January, 2024
His Excellency The President, Dr. Julius Maada Bio, accompanied by First Lady Dr. Fatima Maada Bio, officially opened the 2024 First Parliamentary Seminar on Illegal Mining and its Impact in the West African Region. Held at the Freetown International Conference Centre, this gathering brought together parliamentarians, environmental experts, and delegates from across the region to tackle this pressing issue and pave the way for a sustainable future.
The ECOWAS Parliament was established on the 6th of August, 1994, under Articles 6 and 13 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty of 1993. The initial protocol establishing the Parliament was signed in Abuja on August 6, 1994. It provided for the structure, composition, competence, and other matters relating to the Parliament and its member states.
In his opening speech at the 2024 Parliamentary Seminar, President Bio emphasized the harmful impact of illegal mining on both the environment and local communities. “This unlawful activity steals precious resources, pollutes our land and water, and puts lives at risk,” he declared. “We must stand united against this threat and find solutions that benefits people and the planet.”
Reflecting on the abundance of mineral resources in Africa, President Bio noted that the continent holds 60% of the world’s minerals, yet the benefits of these resources have not been fully realized due to illegal mining activities. The extractive industry, vital for revenue generation and comprising more than half of all exports, is marred by illegal practices that lead to economic losses, environmental degradation, and human rights abuses.
The theme of the seminar, “Illegal Mining and its Implications in the ECOWAS Region,” serves as a clarion call for concerted efforts toward sustainable development in the ECOWAS region. As delegates convene to deliberate on solutions, it is imperative to prioritize collaboration, innovation, and accountability in tackling this multifaceted challenge.
President Bio noted that Sierra Leone has first-hand experience of the consequences of illegal mining, witnessing land degradation and deforestation. He affirmed his government’s dedication to combating this menace through legal reforms and the promotion of alternative livelihoods. He urged the delegates to reflect on collective actions and address the root causes that drive individuals into illegal mining. He emphasized the importance of creating inclusive growth and proposed the emergence of a regional policy framework through fruitful deliberations in the coming days to combat the ills of illegal mining.
During the event, His Excellency the President was awarded the Fifth Legislature’s Outstanding Commitment Award by the ECOWAS Parliament for his Inspirational Leadership in the ECOWAS community. This presentation was made by Rtd. Hon. Dr. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament.
In his closing remarks, President Bio reiterated the need for collaboration to combat illegal mining, emphasizing the shared responsibility of ECOWAS member states in promoting inclusive growth, protecting natural resources, and advancing sustainable development agendas. Through unity and resolve, the region can overcome the detrimental effects of illegal mining and pave the way for a prosperous future for all.
Strategic Communications Division,
Office of the First Lady,
Republic of Sierra Leone.