Stockholm Conference on
Sierra Leone has an impressive minerals potential and has persistently sought development through the conduct of mining activities. For over 70 years, such operations have been and continue to be predominantly carried out by Transnational Enterprises (TNE) operating in the country on foreign direct investments, and as subsidiaries or affiliates of companies based or operating in other countries.(1) Evidently, the conduct of mining has not brought about the desired objective of development as the country remains to be classed as ‘least developed’ amidst severe environmental degradation and adverse social consequences of mining activities on local communities.
No where does the concept of ‘environmental justice’ find more immediate relevance than in Sierra Leone’s mining industry. Present generation has little to show for the wealth that has been amassed from mining and they are deprived of the natural resources that form the immediate alternative to improving their basic quality of life; and future generations have no chance in the contest. Yet, no individual or corporate entity has been found legally culpable for environmental damage or the adverse social effects of mining since its commencement in the country in the 1930s. Equally, no arm of government has accepted responsibility for mining related social deprivation consequent upon development policies, nor has there been any judicial determination on the subject. Today, however there is overwhelming and growing international consensus on ensuring environmentally sustainable activities and corporate accountability for the adverse social effects of development activities including mining. A fundamental goal of this consensus is to afford some form of ‘justice’ to disadvantaged communities through appropriate national and international laws, principles, policies, institutions and ‘best practice’.
This paper will examine the extent to which the current legal and institutional structure of Sierra Leone’s corporate activities draws upon this consensus to afford (or undermine) ‘justice’ for its mining communities. It will first seek to ascertain the content of ‘justice’ in environmental law as a paradigm for the evaluation. A cross section of the country’s mining laws, agreements, corporate initiatives and methods of implementation will form the thrust of the investigation. The paper will also highlight the scope of international influences on corporate mining in Sierra Leone in ensuring the process of environmental justice.
(1) The term ‘TNE’ is used here (as opposed to MNC or MNEs or Transboundary corporations) in relation to mining entities and companies owning or controlling production, sale or services, or otherwise engaged in direct investments internationally, and includes domestic firms that export part of their output but is not limited to incorporated business entities based on parent subsidy relations alone.
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