Tracking Impacts and Making Effective Use of Environmental Impact Assessments for Guinea’s Bauxite Mining

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As part of a two-year funded research project co-sponsored by the Earth Frontiers Seed Grant of Columbia’s Earth Institute and the UN Development Programme in Guinea, led by Principal Investigator Lynnette Widder, CCSI is conducting a legal review of the current environmental and political framework for regulating the mining industry in Guinea. This review supports the work of partners at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Columbia’s Earth Institute, who are developing a mobile application that could allow community members in affected areas to locate, record, and track instances of red dust generated by the extraction and transportation of bauxite. 

Guinea has the world’s largest bauxite deposits and its mining industries are rapidly expanding without observing the necessary safeguards to ensure neighboring communities are protected from its impacts. This project aims to garner a deeper understanding of how bauxite mining has impacted the Guinean landscape to date, and develop best practices for monitoring such changes (via remote sensing and local verification) in order to translate this knowledge into monitoring and enforcement regimes that engage stakeholders from across the sector.

CCSI’s legal framework contribution supports the collective work of a number of Columbia partners. Chris Small, a research professor in Marine Geology and Geophysics at Lamont, is supervising  satellite imagery processing to identify mining dust hot spots where the mobile application would be most beneficial. Lex Van Geen, a research professor and geochemist at Lamont, provides additional technical support to the app. Lex brings with him years of citizen science expertise stemming from his own work with community-based monitoring of arsenic in groundwater in Bangladesh as well as lead in soil in Peru. Additionally, Jason Van Anden of Quadrant 2, a tech company not affiliated with Columbia that specializes in app development for social good, is spearheading the development of the mobile application.

Read more about the project in this blog.