Despite a long mining tradition, particularly in gold, the countries of West Africa had minimal experience in industrial mining until the 1980s. With the surge in gold prices in the late 1990s, the global mining industry discovered the natural resource potential of the region and the mineral sector rapidly became an important source of revenue for governments. However, the sector was contributing little to the social development of the region. In 2009 with the adoption of the African Mining Vision, African leaders committed to a comprehensive development approach that integrates mining with development policy. They saw the sector as a potential vehicle for growth, enrichment and development but realized that mining can only contribute to the transformation of the continent if it supports socio-economic growth that meets national and regional development goals.
By working directly with governments from the West African Economic and Monetary Union (known by its French acronym, UEMOA), particularly Senegal and Burkina Faso, the program supported efforts for a transparent, integrated and environmentally and socially responsible extractive sector that provides sustainable benefits to the community, country and region. Specifically, the program aimed to strengthen the capacity of UEMOA and its member states for improved governance of the extractive sector in order to maximize its contribution to sustainable development and poverty reduction.
The core program activities included:
The program, approved in 2014 and implemented by the École Polytechnique de Montréal (EPM), had four components which strengthened the capacity of four groups: 1) Union Monétaire Ouest Africaine (UÉMOA), for promoting the sustainable development of an integrated mining sector, 2) the Ministry of Industry and Mining in Senegal, through the preparation of a Letter for Sectoral policy development, 3) the local actors at the regional level, through a study of the regional context of Kédougou and 4) two selected universities one in Burkina Faso (University Ouaga I Pr. Joseph Ki-Zerbo) and one in Senegal (University Cheikh Anta Diop), for establishing a Master’s program in Environment and Mining Waste Management.
The project aimed to strengthen the capacity of UEMOA in the development of an integrated mining sector and implement integrated and responsible mining management by the governments of target countries. It sought to increase the involvement of local actors in dialogue on integrated development of the mining sector, and strengthen the capacity of selected universities to develop and implement training and research.