Decision : CONF 003 IV.A.22-24
Mount Nimba (Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire)
22. The Bureau recalled that at the time of the inscription of this site on the World Heritage List in 1981, the Committee was aware of the pending threat to exploit the rich iron ore deposit situated in the northern part of the Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve in Guinea. A project now existed which was of great interest to the steel industry for Europe, Japan and the United States, and which was to be financed essentially by mining consortia from France, Japan and the United States. It would involve the extension of an existing railway from the Liberian side of Mount Nimba, the construction of a moving pavement to transport the ore from the summits of the northern part of Mount Nimba and an open cast mine with a surface area of some 200 ha. The World Bank, which was also involved in the financial support of the project, was conscious of the world heritage status of the site and had drawn up terms of reference for an environmental impact assessment. IUCN, on its part, had refused to take the leadership of this assessment since the mining activity would obviously seriously jeopardize the integrity of the natural ecosystems for which this site was included in the World Heritage List. The Bureau was further informed of the recent launching, at the request of the Guinean Government, of a Unesco/UNDP project aimed at studying the ecosystems of the site in view of improving protection and management. It was certain that the data collected from this study could provide a basis for an environmental impact assessment.
23. The Bureau was informed that following a private visit of the French mining company concerned, the Secretariat had addressed a letter dated 8 June 1990 to the Permanent Delegate of France to Unesco informing him of the situation and recalling France's obligation under Article 6.3 of the Convention to avoid taking any measures which would damage a world heritage site located in another State Party. A similar letter had been addressed on 8 June 1990 to the Permanent Delegate for Guinea, recalling the responsibility of Guinea to protect its world heritage site.
24. The observer from France informed the Committee that he would take up this matter with the competent authorities in his country. The Bureau expressed its concern over this threat which clearly highlighted the economic factors involved in safeguarding world heritage properties. The Bureau, conscious of the fact that the Guinean Government would in fact receive relatively little income from the exploitation of the iron ore of Mount Nimba (as had been indicated by the World Bank at the time of the last Committee session), requested the Secretariat to contact the Guinean authorities as well as the other States Parties concerned, to ask them to forgo this project in the light of their obligations under the World Heritage Convention, and to review the economic consequences.