Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire

Background

Straddling the border, this 17,740 ha WH site is recognized for its outstanding plant and animal diversity.

Issues

Mount Nimba is globally recognized not only for its biodiversity, but also for the fact that it contains very rich high-grade iron ore almost unknown elsewhere on the planet. It contains an estimated 30 year minable reserve of at least 600 million tonnes. After a great deal of pressure, the WH Committee agreed to the excision of an enclave from the WH site in 1993, within which a consortium of major mining companies is carrying out extensive exploratory activities that were said to be having negative impacts on the site.

Impact on Operations

A tremendous amount of scrutiny on the part of the WH Committee and of international conservation NGOs was applied to the operations of the consortium. In its efforts to act responsibly, the consortium has invested heavily in measures to understand and address any possible impacts of their operations on the site. One company, Tata, walked away from the area after having invested 3 years’ of effort in setting up operations. Years of further research, including a detailed EIA, will be necessary before a conclusive decision on proceeding will take place.

Contributing Factors

  • The WH Committee’s agreement to a radical modification of the site’s boundaries in 1993 opened the door to mining activities in the heart of the site, creating a very difficult situation in terms of biodiversity conservation.

  • The value of the mineral deposits at the site was likely not fully understood at the time that the governments proposed it for inscription. A more complete understanding may have resulted in a different set of boundaries, or a decision not to request inscription as a WH site altogether.