17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) expected to transform the world. IMAGE/UN
By PATRICK MAYOYO
Global demand for metals and minerals is expected to triple by 2060 compared with 2011, to meet the growing demands of a more affluent and increasingly urban population a new report says.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report says the World Bank projects production of rare earth metals to rise even more steeply: a fivefold increase by 2050. Rare earth metals are particularly critical to developing the green technologies needed to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Historically, the mining industry is known for delivering harm along with its opportunities and the sector has become emblematic of poor natural resource governance, corruption, human rights violations, and issues of accountability and transparency. At the same time, the industry is central to the global transition to a low-carbon future.
In Kenya, the report says the nexus between environmental protection and human rights in mining was not clear before the country joined the Environmental Governance Programme (EGP) in 2014. Human rights governance has been led by the government’s National Commission on Human Rights as well as other non-state actors.
Environmental matters are advanced by the National Environmental Management Authority as enshrined in the Environmental Management and Coordination Act 2015 (Amended). Mining, however, is regulated by the Ministry of Mining and enshrined in separate framework legislation, the Mining Act, 2016.
“In Kenya, the adoption of the EGP-supported Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment (SESA) has greatly enhanced understanding of environmental protection in the mining sector,” the report says.
The SESA provides a methodology for assessing the impacts of strategies and implementation mechanisms, ensuring that potential negative environmental impacts are mitigated and positive aspects are strengthened as the country continues to exploit its mineral resources for socioeconomic development.
With the EGP’s support, government staff at national and county levels have been trained on the management of environmental issues, including the use of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), environmental audits, and conducting inspections to enforce improved environmental and human rights practices.
The SESA has also helped authorities identify gaps in the guidelines and tools for EIA application in the extractive sector and kick-start the development of new EIA guidelines for the sector. The revision of the EIA guidelines provides an opportunity to enhance local community participation in monitoring and track compliance with their environmental management plans.
“The EGP Project Technical Committee has been successfully implemented and is now influencing decision-making as a result of the strengthened coordination among agencies and institutions and different ministries,” the report notes.
The Committee brings together the National Environment Management Authority, the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health Services, the Council of Governors, the Kenya Chamber of Mines, civil society organizations and various local actors.
The Committee has also enabled fast and coordinated responses to urgent situations. For example, if a community in Kenya complains of pollution arising from a mining development in a certain area, information flows facilitated by the Committee have led to faster inspections, faster response and remedial actions.
Additionally, mining site inspections in Kenya now include a human rights angle and are jointly carried out by representatives of the National Environment Management Authority and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.
“Another EGP-enabled contribution to improving environmental and human rights outcomes in the country’s mining sector was the extensive training about environmental management provided to artisanal and small-scale miners in key mining counties, including Migori, Kakamega, Taita Taveta and Turkana,” the report adds.
Artisanal miners in Kenya had, for a long time, been left out of the regulation process and were considered illegal. The Mining Act, 2016, for the first time, recognized artisanal miners, providing a process for permit acquisition and establishing an Artisanal Mining Committees at the county level.
The training was designed to support the registration of artisanal miners into groups for licensing, tracking and boosting their revenues through the promotion of value addition and branding as Kenyan products.
By utilizing existing local structures and encouraging the establishment of community-based committees, the EGP focused on promoting sustainable interventions informed by local communities and implemented by local communities.
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