The property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1992, following a proposal to reduce significantly its size to allow mining of iron ore. Following an interdisciplinary mission in 1993, the World Heritage Committee agreed to revise the boundaries, taking out a 1550 ha area from the Guinean part of the property where mining could take place as far as this could be done without impacting the property. The World Heritage Committee also decided to keep the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, concerning the other threats to its values and integrity such as agricultural encroachment and poaching. Monitoring missions visited the property in 2007 (to the part in Guinea) and 2008 (to the part in Côte d’Ivoire), developing the set of corrective measures listed above.
On 22 January and 30 January 2009, brief reports on the state of conservation of the property were submitted by the State Party of Guinea and the State Party of Côte d’Ivoire respectively. The report of the State Party of Guinea indicates some progress in implementing a number of corrective measures for the property:
a) Strengthen the capacities of the management authority CEGENS in the field, in particular by providing the necessary financial and technical resources to accomplish its mission
Most staff of CEGENS has been now decentralized from the capital to the office in Lola close to the property. A management board was also appointed. The report also mentions the provision of one new vehicle and one motorbike, the recruitment of additional staff, and the construction of patrol posts. At the same time, it is mentioned that CEGENS has no proper office and is lacking field equipment and qualified staff.
b) Strengthen the surveillance of the property in cooperation with the local communities, in particular by recruiting the ecoguards necessary and by strengthening the capacities of the newly created Village Surveillance Committees (CVS)
The number of surveillance committees has increased from 3 at the time of the 2007 mission to 9. Staffing has also been improved with the designation of a law enforcement chief warden and 16 additional rangers. No information is provided on the training of the surveillance committees, as recommended by the mission, nor on the ability of the current surveillance to curb the numerous threats to the values and integrity of the property.
c) Define a buffer zone for the property, in consultation with local stakeholders, with an appropriate legal status and strengthen the conservation of the property through sustainable management of the natural resources within this buffer zone
The State Party notes progress in the clarification of the legal status of the property with a draft legislation available, and georeferencing and marking of the limits of the property and the mining enclave, which should be concluded this year. However, no information is provided on the definition of a buffer zone for the property. The establishment of a functional buffer zone, where more sustainable land use practices are promoted, is a key recommendation of the 2007 mission.
d) Put in place an ecological monitoring system and a geo-referenced database for all scientific data collected on the property
The report mentions the establishment of a World Heritage Committee for the ecological monitoring of the property, in charge of biological inventories and the development of the database but no information is provided on the activities of this World Heritage Committee. It is mentioned that two rapid inventories were organized with Africa Nature International but no results are provided.
e) Conduct a feasibility study to define a sustainable finance mechanism for the property
The State Party report identifies this as one of the main issues for the conservation of the property and mentions that they want to request assistance from the World Heritage Centre to prepare this feasibility study.
f) Develop a strategy for the conservation of the Déré Forest and Bossou Hills
While a programme to evict the illegal occupants of the Déré forest element of the property is reported to be foreseen during 2009, the report also notes that the occupation and exploitation within the area by members of the armed forces of Côte d’Ivoire, requires a diplomatic solution to avoid potential armed conflict.
g) Prepare a management plan for the property and the biosphere reserve
No progress is reported on this.
The report concludes that the current time frame for full implementation of corrective measures is estimated to be 2014 but that the property continues to face pressures caused by poverty and lack of livelihoods in the areas adjacent to the property, and the lack of facilities, personnel and capacity within the management unit of the property.
The report of the State Party of Côte d’Ivoire indicates; that while some staff for management of the property has been appointed, they are currently still located at Duékoué, at considerable distance from the property. The park authorities are reported not to have access to the Reserve as a result of security problems and therefore no progress was made in the implementation of the corrective measures.
The report notes that whilst military presence in the area has been reduced, the process of disarmament has not yet been concluded. Currently a strategy is being developed between the protected area authority Office Ivoirien des Parcs et Réserves (OIPR) and the integrated commandment of the army for ensuring security in the protected areas included in the areas under command of the former rebel army. The report indicates that there remains a high level of both political and technical commitment, and of concern regarding the property, and that the opportunity to restore order in civil society following the treaty of Ouagadougou in 2007 remains in place. However the State Party emphasizes that due to the on-going recovery from the recent military crisis it is not yet possible to define a timetable for the restoration of organization, logistics and partnerships or complete implementation of corrective measures. The State Party notes that a request for financial assistance to support a transboundary workshop to enable the requested tripartite discussion with Liberia is under preparation and will be submitted to the World Heritage Centre.
Neither report refers to the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, but the World Heritage Centre has been informed that a draft is being prepared jointly by both State Parties following the recent training session organized in Dar-es-Salaam. No Desired state of conservation for the property has been established.
Both State Party reports discuss the mining threats to the property and these are considered separately below. In Decision 32 COM 7A.3, the World Heritage Committee noted significant concerns regarding a mining threat to the property in Côte d’Ivoire. Following initial discussions with the World Heritage Centre, IUCN through its Regional Director for Asia met with the concession holder Tata Steel in February 2009. Following this meeting the Group Director of Global Minerals at Tata Steel confirmed in writing to IUCN that “Tata Steel will uphold the highest standards of social responsibility and will not undertake any exploration or mining operations within or around the country’s heritage property in Mt. Nimba, if it impacts the universal value of the property in any way”. The State Party report of Côte d’Ivoire notes that the National UNESCO Commission has prepared a Memorandum recommending the Government to suspend the joint venture agreement between the national mining parastatal SODEMI and Tata and to prohibit all mining exploration activities in the property. It notes that the Minister for National Education and Scientific Research and the Minister for Environment, Water and Forests are preparing a statement for the Board of Ministers to request the Minister of Mines to suspend all mining exploration and exploitation activities in the property.
In Guinea, the Société des Mines de Fer de Guinée (SMFG) is continuing its exploration work to understand the development potential for an open-cut iron ore mine in an enclave which is located outside but adjacent to the Guinea portion of the property. Following the 2007 monitoring mission, the World Heritage Committee requested that the Environmental Impact Assessment be conducted in accordance with the highest international standards and that baseline data be collected in order to clarify and quantify the potential impacts on the property. SMFG have made it clear that they aspire to do no harm to the environment and are committed to minimizing impacts in their zone of operation and to avoid any significant biophysical impact outside the area of their anticipated mining project. This is a highly challenging objective considering the environmental and social context of Mont Nimba. An informal consultation meeting was held with representatives of the State Party, Guinean stakeholders, World Heritage Centre, and representatives of the mining consortium, at UNESCO on 28 April 2009, in which the Terms of Reference for the EIA were presented. SMFG have indicated that "this process of early, proactive consultation will be formalised as the project advances, and that the consortium will keep this group regularly informed of the project’s development". The World Heritage Centre and IUCN await the further progress of this process.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are very concerned on the limited progress in the implementation of the corrective measures across the property. In Côte d’Ivoire, the management authority still has no regular access to the property. A critical issue requiring continued diplomatic emphasis is the finalisation of the demilitarisation of the property, and it is of significant concern that army groups from Côte d’Ivoire are reported to be operating in the Déré Forest in Guinea. Although this is not part of the World Heritage property, the fact it is part of the UNESCO biosphere reserve potentially creates a destabilising effect on the management of the inscribed property. In Guinea, whilst there has been some progress in the implementation of the corrective measures, it remains limited compared to the challenges and threats to the property, in spite of the supportive capacity through the project activities of the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Development Programme in the region.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the States Parties should accelerate progress to protect the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property. Critical threats to the property still remain, not only from the possible impacts of mining, but also from the continued insecurity in Côte d’Ivoire and the weak management capacity of the management authority CEGENS in Guinea, as a result of lack of funding and trained staff.
World Heritage Centre and IUCN note with satisfaction the responsible position taken by Tata Steel on mining within the property, which was confirmed in writing following the meeting with the Director of the IUCN Asia Regional Office on 9 February 2009. This decision of Tata Steel provides an opportunity, and need, for the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to withdraw the mining concession as requested by the Committee in its last Decision. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN continue to follow up the process of environmental assessment for the mining project in Guinea on the basis of the principle that no development should take place in the enclave that would impact adversely on the Outstanding Universal Value and the integrity of the property.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the threats facing the property are still severe and that the property should remain on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN encourage the States Parties to improve cooperation for the management of this transboundary property.