Promoting sustainable mining through education

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This is the motto of Justin Nduka Anumnu, Principal Geologist in the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA), who is making use of the knowledge and skills he obtained at the University of Queensland to enhance local economic and social development in the mining industry.

There has been increasing concern about the impact of mines on the surrounding communities, particularly as far as the sustainable development of these communities is concerned. Various instruments have been developed to address the challenge of local community benefits. Such an intervention has been the community development agreement (CDA) between mining companies and impacted communities. Since most benefits to the communities take the form of once-off cash payments, Justin realised the importance of initiating a developmental project that is sustainable, and has long-term benefits.

Upon his return to Nigeria, Justin launched such a project at Awha ndi Agu in Enugu State in November 2016. His role was to raise awareness of the need for a progressive CDA that would benefit all those involved. He also acted as a mediator between the mine and its stakeholders, which included community members.

“As a geologist and member of the team that worked on the exploration of coal resources, I would often sit in meetings with the local communities where CDAs were signed that centred on payments. However, after attending the course on Local Economics and Social Development in Extractives (LESDE) in Australia, I saw things from a different perspective,” says Justin.

His course informed his knowledge, and he started focusing his efforts on educating the community on the need for a CDA that was developmental and sustainable in nature. This would enable communities to supplement their incomes. “It is important to note that this will not only provide a social license for the mining company to operate, but will also open up other businesses for the community to tap into through the various economic linkages that come with mining,” says Justin.

Once a progressive CDA is in place, the mining company will have a good working relationship with the community when mining commences. The community will also benefit from access to valuable and sustainable infrastructure, capacity building, employment and a better livelihood. Furthermore, the government will benefit from the infrastructure that has been built, and its resources can be channelled into other sectors, thereby boosting local economic development.

“Even though the final CDA has yet to be signed, amendments that target sustainable development issues and infrastructure have been captured and agreed upon by the stakeholders, and consideration has been given to the positive ideas and opinions of women, the youth and people with disabilities,” says Justin.

During his time in Australia, Justin built professional networks that were beneficial in implementing this initiative. By continuing to communicate with a fellow student from Ghana, he could tap into similar CDAs implemented in mining communities there, which could be applied to his current initiative.

Justin also led a campaign for increased progressive awareness of CDA demands made by mining communities to universities that offer Geology in the south-eastern part of Nigeria using his office’s industrial training platform. More than 30 Geology students benefited from the interactive session that formed part of this initiative.

Through his engagement with people who can potentially make a difference in the lives of those impacted on by the mining sector, Justin is redefining the essence of the CDA, ensuring that it is truly an agreement that will guarantee community development.

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