By Tabora Bojang
The former executive director of the National Environment Agency, Momodou B Sarr has told the Faraba commission of inquiry that Environmental Impact Assessment of The Julakay Group could be reviewed to confirm whether the procedures are followed and if the process is not done properly, its license can be cancelled if necessary.
Sarr, who is now a private consultant served as the NEA boss for a decade before stepping down in 2013, was invited to provide his expert view on critical environmental issues, impacts and recommendations to the commission as it continues probe into the bloody June 18 mining unrest that claimed lives of three individuals in Faraba.
He said an MoU cannot be signed by the Alkalo alone and the licenses can be issued on conditions, saying the area should be mapped out clearly since there are certain projects that are obliged to conduct EIA which include major roads, industrial complexes and mining by a consultant prior to the start of any activity.
He stressed that the country has adequate mining laws but only needs reinforcements as he recommends use of laterite mud dust as bricks in lieu of sand mining, stressing that they are more durable and stronger than sand blocks.
He said in the case of mining, the first step is to discuss with the Geology Department on the plans and site of the mine, upon which the department issues a screening form, which is sent to the NEA, and based on the content of the form, they would determine whether the project needs EIA.
He said the consultant is required to seek the wishes and concerns of the communities, which is answered in a report sent to the communities and that consultation is a requirement owing in the TOR.
He said it is not possible to sign an MOU without consulting the communities and by extension list the contact details, names and pictures of those that have attended the meeting, prior to the issuing of license.
He said when all the requirements are met the secretariat of EIA at the NEA and the chairman of NEA now approve the report. He said the chairman also scrutinizes the report and authorizes the Officer in Charge [EIA] to write to the Geology and Developer indicating that the EIA report has been approved.
He said the approved report also contains conditions among them the access roads be constructed, timely payment of royalties to the communities which is collected by the Area Council and the price is negotiable, saying the communities, the Area Council therein and the NEA have their share from the royalties, mitigating grievances among others and the project starts, which is monitored by NEA, Geology and Area Council.