Guinea or the Republic of Guinea (with its capital, Conakry) is located in Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone. The country has strong biodiversity though lacks comprehensive conservation solutions, up to date environmental laws and adequate enforcement of environmental protections.
Guinea’s geography can be separated into four main regions – Lower Guinea, Upper Guinea, the Guinean Highlands and Fouta Djallon. The latter is mainly highlands and due to heavy rainfall provides the headwaters of several major African rivers including the Niger and Gambia. To provide a general overview, the terrain in the coastal regions is fairly flat, whilst the interior ranges from hilly to mountainous. The climate is generally hot and humid, with a monsoonal-type rainy season (June to November) and a dry season (December to May) with harmattan winds. In terms of flora and fauna, Guinea is home to elephants and chimpanzees which can be found in the forest areas, as well as baboons, hippos, hyenas and giraffes. Manatees, whales and dolphins are commonly found in the country’s waters. Mangroves forests are found close to Guinea’s waterways, particularly near the numerous river mouths. Parinari trees are spread across the country, as are baobabs, shea trees and tall grasses.
Current environmental challenges include deforestation, poor water supply in terms of both quality and quantity, overpopulation, overfishing, soil contamination and erosion and desertification.
Principal Legislation and Regulator
The general environmental legislation in Guinea is the Code for the Protection and Development of the Environment 1987 (Environment Code) (Code sur la protection et la mise en valeur de l’environnement) as amended in 1989. Additional relevant legislation includes Decree No.1989-199 on the EIA process and Order No.990 regarding the methodology for EIAs. However, these environmental laws and regulations provide little detail, particularly in relation to the mining industry, and are somewhat outdated in terms of international standards. The environmental provisions of the Mining Code 2011 (as amended in 2013), alongside Decree No. 2014-014 adopting a directive for carrying out environmental and social impact studies of mining operations (EIA Decree), provide a much more comprehensive legal framework and are specifically drafted to apply to the environmental aspects of mining projects. A General Guide on Environmental Impact Assessments was also published in 2013 and provides guidance on the requirements and process for EIA (EIA Guide).
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests (le ministère de l'environnement, des eaux et forêts) (Environmental Authority) is the primary government authority. The Guinean Office of Environmental Studies and Assessment (Bureau Guinéen d'Études et d'Évaluation Environnementale) (BGEEE) within the Environmental Authority is responsible for the management and oversight of EIAs and related matters, with the Technical Committee for Environmental Analysis (Comité Technique d’Analyse Environnementale) (CTAE) providing additional input. The BGEEE works with the National Mining Authority, National Mining Commission and the Technical Committee of Mining Titles to provide technical and environmental evaluations and associated opinions relating to the granting and renewal of rights. The Ministry of Mines and Geology (Mining Authority) provides co-ordination between the titleholder and the Environmental Authority.
Environmental requirements vary under the Mining Code which, as stated under Article 142, vary from a simple Environmental Impact Notice in the case of an Exploration Permit to an Environmental and Social Impact Study (ESIS) including a Hazard Study, Risk Management Plan, Hygiene, Health and Safety Plan, Rehabilitation Plan and Resettlement Plan for an Exploitation Permit or Mining Concession (see also Arts. 82 & 83, Environment Code and Decree No.199).
Holders of Exploration Permits must file an Environmental Impact Notice (EIA Notice) before the start of works and no later than six (6) months after the title has been granted (Art. 142, MC). The notice must take into account the nature of the substances to be explored and the category of work which must be carried out (Art. 1.2, EIA Decree). According to the EIA Decree and EIA Guide, prior to filing an EIA Notice a project notice must be filed with the Mining Authority with provides general information relating to the project. The notice will be passed on the Environmental Authority for consideration (Art. 3.2, EIA Decree; see also s.2.2, EIA Guide). The EIA Notice must then be prepared and submitted for approval.
In order to obtain an Exploitation Permit or Mining Concession a full ESIS must be carried out and the approval of the Environmental Authority obtained. The purpose of the ESIS is to consider how people and the environment will be impacted by the project and to provide the project promotor with an environmentally sound project (Art. 2.1, EIA Decree). Various general characteristics and standards are set out under the EIA Decree – including the use qualified staff for the preparation of the ESIS, the incorporation of project modelling where possible, and the taking into account of IFC Performance Standards regarding surrounding populations. The project promoter is also required to demonstrate that it will comply with either national environmental standards or international standards such as those of the IFC and ICMM and explain the use of either set of standards within the ESIS (see Part II, EIA Decree).
Part III of the EIA Decree outlines the process for the ESIS, with content requirements specified under Part IV. Initially, proponents must file a project notice with the Environmental Authority via the Mining Authority and subsequently hire a suitably qualified company to conduct the ESIS, with the assistance of a Guinean approved consultant if the company does not itself meet this requirement (Arts. 3.2-3.3, EIA Decree). Minimum fees for the ESIS are provided under the EIA Decree (Art. 3.7, EIA Decree).
An environmental framework must then be prepared in order to determine the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the ESIS. The framework must identify the main environmental and social challenges for the project. The framework shall be verified by the Environmental Authority. The TOR must provide: a description of the draft pre-feasibility study; a description of the environment; the study area; a list of questions and potential impacts arising from the project, as well as its priorities; a public consultation plan; and a budget for the ESIS. 23 copies of the draft TOR must be submitted to the Environmental Authority for examination and approval by the BGEEE in collaboration with the National Mines Authority (Art.3.4, EIA Decree). The examination of the TOR shall take seven (7) working days (Art. 3,7, EIA Decree).
The ESIS must then be conducted on the basis of the approved TOR. As noted, the requirements for the ESIS Report are set out under Part IV of the EIA Decree. The requirements appear to be relatively standard and, amongst other things, include: information on the project promotor; project context and description; project options and variables; justification of why the chosen options have been selected; details of the preparatory and construction phase; details of the exploitation operating phase; details of the closure and rehabilitation phase; details of the project area and study area; a description of the environment; a land use plan; impact analysis and mitigation measures; and an Environmental and Social Management Plan (see also Part Four, EIA Guide).
Public consultations form a key aspect of the ESIS. Consultations of some form must be carried out before, during and after the ESIS in order to take into consideration the interests, values and concerns of local or regional populations. At least 30 days before the ESIS is to be commenced, local communities must be informed of the project in a language and manner which is suitable. A project notice must be prepared for such purposes which must specify the schedule for the ESIS, information on community meetings and any other activities which may be carried out directly involving local people (Art. 3.1, EIA Decree).
Upon completion, the ESIS Report must be submitted for examination and approval. 23 copies of the ESIS Report must be submitted alongside a request for review and approval, a project description, and 23 copies of a non-technical summary (Art. 3.7, EIA Decree). The CTAE will be primarily responsible for the examination of the ESIS. The examination will be conducted within 15 working days (Art. 3.7, EIC Decree). The decision to approve an ESIS shall be notified to the promotor within a maximum of 12 working days following the examination period. Approval instruments will then be provided to the Mining Authority and the project may be authorised.
As regards other environmental obligations the Mining Code provides considerable input in relation to rehabilitation and closure, including a requirement for Exploitation Permit and Mining Concession holders to open and fund an environmental rehabilitation and trust account, in accordance with the Environmental and Social Management Plan, to guarantee the rehabilitation and closure of the mining site. The terms of its operation will be determined by joint orders from the ministers for mines, environment and finance (Art. 144, MC).