The election of a Chair, Co-chair, Secretary and Chaplain of the 15-member committee was held in Fornor, Grand Cape Mount County at the end of a training on artisanal and small-scale mining in Bopolu, Gbarpolu County.
The Committee is comprised of members from Fornor, Konjo, Mano River, and Kawulahun mining communities in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties along with local representatives from the Ministry of Mines & Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and Society for the Conservation of Nature (SCNL).
The formation of the ASM PEM Committee is an initiative being piloted by the Environmental Governance Program supported by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL) as partners.
It is part of efforts aimed at encouraging members of affected communities to become active stewards of their environment with shared responsibilities in preventing and mitigating environmental issues that affect them in the ASM sector.
PEM provides an opportunity for sustained community engagements and discussions that bring members together to find solutions to their problems. The Committee will be responsible to promote environmental management by monitoring and reporting on the protection of the environment.
Its duties include the conduct of monthly patrols, monitoring and reporting illegal mining activities, monitoring the closure of mining pits and trenches, encouraging renewal of legal mining licenses, monitoring and reporting human rights violations, sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children; monitoring and reporting on environment degradation, requesting/recommending law enforcement where necessary, as well as raising awareness forthe protection of the local environment and issues affecting communities to includewith respect to natural resource management.
“The feeling of inclusion is a powerful and positive force. You must take ownership of this process which will help you share information and engage relevant authorities to make informed decisions about your wellbeing,” said UNDP Focal Person for the Environmental Governance Program, E. Abraham Tumbey Jr.
The Executive Director of SCNL Michael Garbo urged the committee to work closely with its members, the government, and partners to protect the environment by supporting the Ministry of Mines & Energy in enforcing the mining laws, raise awareness on human rights violations, safety and security and promote community livelihood in the mining sector.
“The community must ensure that mining pits and trenches are closed immediately after work is completed. It is a responsibility given to you to keep your children, the community and its surroundings safe by following the rules and regulations,” Garbo emphasized.
Participatory Environmental Monitoring Committees are necessary mechanisms for meaningful engagement at the community level especially in rural areas. In many cases, they are established as volunteer initiatives.
Folley Fornor is the Town Chief of Fornor. He expressed appreciation to UNDP and its partners for the support to affected communities, promising that they will work with the ASM PEM committee for the benefit of their people.
“We have authority in our hands to do the right thing for our people. All of us must take it seriously and be part of it to enjoy the benefits,” Town Chief Fornor said.
This pilot initiative is expected to support capacity building of stakeholders, build on PEM, provide guidance to the PEM to convene regular environmental monitoring to promote environment quality within the region and use the lessons learned and experience from the pilots to inform Liberia’s contribution to the global PEM guide currently being developed.