Little Grains of Sand: Beaches at Risk

Most of the sand used for building in Freetown, Sierra Leone is from the beaches in the Western area. But sand extraction isn't just of interest to the construction industry in the nation’s capital. It's also of interest to Sierra Leone’s Ministries of Tourism; Lands, Country Planning and the Environment; Local Government and Rural Development; and Mineral Resources.

Sadly, the roles of the various ministries are not clear and environmental problems abound.  In places like Lakka, a small coastal village near Freetown, several houses are now under the sea.

According to one of the nation’s largest engineering and management companies, Sierra Leone’s sand and aggregate sectors are in a big mess. Governance is extremely poor, with overlapping mandates or sometimes no mandate at all.

In a 2008 report presented to the Government of Sierra Leone, Construction, Engineering, Manufacturing, Management And Technical Services (CEMMATS) Group Ltd said sand mining is mainly done by artisans and on beaches in the Western area. River sand is extracted mainly in the provinces.

This means the Mineral Resources ministry has no control over sand mining.

Although it is within the purview of Local Councils and local chiefs and headmen exert control, there is no oversight provided by the Local Government Ministry or agencies responsible for the environment.

Aggregate mining is also confusing, CEMMATS said.

There are artisan operators who break stones on private property or on government owned land on hilltops, with obvious environmental consequences. They are not licensed and local government as well as ministries/agencies provides no oversight.

Commercial quarry operators are licensed by the Ministry of Mineral Resources and required to carry out Environmental Impact Assessments, although monitoring by the Environmental Department is poor.

Quarries for road construction are licensed by the Sierra Leone Roads Authority and Ministry of Works and are not required to do Environmental Impact Assessments. However, blasting in quarries (and mining companies) causes a lot of problems in neighboring communities but there is hardly any control by any government department or agency. The laws related to blasting date back to 1956 and are outdated in many aspects.

CEMMATS believe the policies, regulations and action plans they developed for consideration by the government of Sierra Leone in 2008 have comprehensively addressed all of these issues and other issues pertinent to these sectors.

 We urge the government to do something before it’s too late


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