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Senegal’s President Faye To Renegotiate Mining Contracts

SENEGAL’S recently elected president, Bassirou Dioumaye Faye, has vowed to renegotiate mining, gas, and oil contracts signed with foreign companies to ensure environmental compliance and local benefits. At a high-level summit in Paris last week, his mining minister detailed how the new administration plans to break from old practices and alliances.

During this year’s Mining on Top Africa (MOTA) conference, Birame Souleye Diop, Senegal’s minister of energy and mines, announced the government’s intention to review contracts of mining companies that fail to meet their environmental obligations.

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‘A few days ago, I visited Kedougou,’ Diop said, referring to the region housing most of Senegal’s industrial and artisanal gold mines. Located 700 km east of the capital, Dakar, and near the Malian border, Kedougou is one of the country’s poorest regions and suffers from widespread contamination.

‘The water of the Falame river is totally polluted, animals are dying, children are dying, forests have been decimated,’ Diop said, highlighting the impact of cyanide and mercury used in gold mining. ‘This is not fair.’

Environmental concerns and audits

Environmental degradation in Kedougou has been a concern for years. The Institute for Security Studies reports that 3.9 tonnes of mercury are used annually in the region, posing significant health risks to miners and residents alike. Immediately after taking office in April, President Faye ordered an audit of Senegal’s oil, gas, and mining sectors.

‘Our partners in the extractive industries are obliged to respect all the clauses of the contracts, and we, as a state, have the responsibility to intervene and restore public order,’ Diop told mining companies, government leaders, and experts attending the MOTA conference on July 3-4.

Expanding investment horizons

While the annual MOTA meeting aims to foster partnerships between Europe and Africa, the Senegalese minister emphasised that the search for potential investors would not be limited to Europe. ‘We need to find what’s best for us. And, if it is in my country’s interest to partner with Saudi Arabia, I’ll go there,’ Diop stated.

Local benefits and technological transfer

Diop stressed the importance of ensuring local communities benefit from the exploitation of their land. He argued that a percentage of profits should be reinvested in projects that directly benefit residents. ‘It is not enough just to give jobs to the local population. We need to focus where the need is. There is no use for a mining company to build a hospital when it’s schools which are needed,’ he explained.

He also insisted that foreign companies should share technology with Senegal rather than simply extracting its primary materials. “They take our resources, they transform them, and they sell them back to us,’ Diop told  French broadcaster RFI.

Mineral wealth and national data

Senegal began producing oil for the first time in June, with an estimated eventual capacity of more than 200,000 barrels per day. The country is also rich in minerals such as phosphate, iron ore, zircon, and gold. Diop claimed that French investors involved in exploration have a clearer picture of Senegal’s mineral reserves than the government does. ‘They have the data, but they haven’t shared it with me. What kind of generosity are we talking about? Transformation also means knowing what’s in your subsoil,’ he said.

African collaboration

Diop suggested that African countries should collaborate more closely to benefit from their mineral resources. The African Minerals Development Centre, established in 2016, aims to help African states reap the benefits of their mineral wealth. However, only a few countries have ratified its founding statute, preventing it from becoming fully operational. ‘Before being convinced that we need Europe, I think we should at least start by talking among ourselves, Africans, first,’ Diop remarked.

Senegal’s new leadership is set on renegotiating foreign contracts to ensure environmental protection and local benefits, marking a significant shift in the country’s approach to its natural resources. By prioritising local needs and technological transfer, President Faye and his administration aim to foster sustainable development and greater self-reliance. As Senegal navigates these changes, its example could inspire other African nations to reassess their own resource management strategies.

This revamped approach by Senegal’s government underscores a broader regional movement towards greater autonomy and accountability in managing Africa’s abundant natural resources, aiming for sustainable development and long-term prosperity.

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