IGCP 606 - Adressing environmental and health impacts of major and abandoned mines in Sub-Saharan Africa
Mining operations contribute more than 20 percent of the economy of Sub-Saharan Africa, making mining one of the principal drivers of economic activity in the region. Sub-Saharan Africa also has some of the richest agricultural industry a vital arm of the region's economy. The two industries of mining and agriculture are not only complementary but inextricably linked, in a way that negative impacts arising from the development of mining, may impinge on the development of agriculture. Indeed, several decades of metal mining has considerably altered the background levels of toxic metal species in the various environmental media, adversely affecting surface and groundwater resources, soil and food crops, with potential negative effects on the food chain and consequently, the health of man and animals. In many other Sub-Saharian African countries, the situation is worsened by the lack of a precise inventory of abandoned and derelict mines. Indeed, systematic surveys and impact assessment need to be carried out over the entire region to be able to determine the true extent of the detrimental effects of metal pollutants and their impact on human and animal health, as well as on the environment and its ecosystems. This is a pre-requisite for appropriate legislation development and enforcement.