Reports were received from the State Parties of Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea State on 23 January 2007 and 3 February 2007, respectively. The joint UNESCO/IUCN monitoring mission requested by the Committee at its 30th session had to be postponed several times as a result of security concerns. The mission is currently planned for May 13-22. The results of the mission will be presented orally at the 31st session.
The property continues to be threatened by the limited control of the property caused by the presence of rebel forces in the Côte d’Ivoire portion of the property. In Guinea, the encroachment and potential negative impacts of the mining operations by the company SFMG (Societé des Mines de Fer de Guinée), which are resuming, threaten the property.
a) Côte d’Ivoire:
The State Party report notes that management activities in the property are still suspended because of the occupation by rebel forces but that the natural resources of the property have been little affected by the crisis and the conditions are in place to allow restoration of the property. Poaching is highlighted as the largest threat.Timber exploitation, which was occurring in the buffer zone until October 2006, has been halted in all areas following a decision by the rebel authorities to ban this activity. There is no agricultural encroachment in the property and the neighbouring village of Yéalé continues to contribute to the protection of the property. The Ivorian Parks and Reserves Authority (OIPR) is still unable to access the property due to the inaccessibility caused by degraded roads. Park buildings (its offices and guard housing) are completely degraded and are occupied by the former members of the rebel forces. A meeting on Mount Nimba to produce a collaboration plan for improved transboundary management planned for 2006 between Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Guinea was postponed until later in 2007.
The Guinea State Party provided a detailed state of conservation report, emphasizing its lack of financial resources to improve the management of the property. The report also provides details on the state of implementation of some of the recommendations of the 1993 mission:
(i) While the limits of the property as proposed by the 1993 mission are recognized by all parties and stakeholders, they have not yet been fixed by law;
(ii) A management institution for the property was created (CEGENS) but it lacks financial and technical resources;
(iii) There has been no progress in the implementation of the environmental convention with the mining company;
(iv) So far the mining company SMFG has not contributed financially neither to the development of the region nor to the management of the property;
(v) No additional impact study was undertaken since the 1990 Environmental Impact Assessment. However, the mining company is currently developing the terms of reference for an Environmental Impact Assessment;
(vi) Since 2004, important preparatory infrastructure works were undertaken in the mining enclave, such as the re-opening of the road to the Pierré-Richaud range and the construction of a water retention facility. The report expresses concern that these works might have an impact on the critically endangered and endemic viviparous toad, whose distribution includes part of the enclave and that negative effects of the mining company’s activities are already observed in the wildlife, vegetation and water even before iron exploitation has actually begun;
(vii) No progress was made on the re-formulation of the management plan;
(viii) The local communities continue to depend on the natural resources of the property, resulting in further degradation of the property. The only road accessible if the road Lola – Gbakoré – N’Zoo, rehabilitated recently by the mining company.
The report acknowledges that efforts are underway to address certain recommendations as part of the UNDP/GEF project, but notes that the managing authority CEGENS is insufficiently involved in the implementation of the project.
The report also notes that a large portion of the property is affected by bush fires. Research has yet to be carried out on the cause but poachers are the likely reason. The forest of Bossou, which is chimpanzee habitat, is being degraded with pressure from the neighbouring farming communities whose lands are no longer fertile. In addition, the rebel Ivorian forces are causing serious management problems in Guinea. Along the Ivorian border, indigenous and non-native communities inhabit 2700 ha of cleared forest land, 1 300 ha of degraded open forested land, 4 000 ha of agricultural encroached land, and 1 500 ha of completely degraded land.
To assist in addressing the threats to the property the Guinea State Party requests assistance from the international community to carry out the necessary management activities for the benefit of the property.
The State Party of Guinea emphasizes its political will and support for the property but notes that it is severely hampered by lack of financial resources and capacity and seeks increased support from the international community. Such international assistance is required, in particular, as Mount Nimba covers a transboundary region shared with Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Guinea where all countries suffer from the same lack of resources, poverty of communities neighboring the property, and illiteracy of these communities, and a common pressure for mineral exploitation. The State Party would like assistance in promoting and negotiating concerted efforts to implement the institutional mechanisms in each of the three countries to allow sustainable development to benefit the local stakeholders and the natural resources.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN acknowledge the difficulties of managing the site with the crisis situation in Côte d’Ivoire but emphasize the need for Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Guinea to continue to work together to try and resolve the problems. The implementation of the recommendations of the 2007 monitoring mission will be integral to protecting the property, and will require enhanced cooperation among all the State Parties involved as well as financial and technical assistance from the international community.
On 17 December 2006, a delegation of SMFG, composed of its President and Environment and Communications manager visited the Director of the World Heritage Centre. In this meeting, SMFG stressed that the company and its shareholders BHP Billiton and Newmont, both member of ICMM, take environmental concerns around the Nimba mining project seriously. They agreed that only careful design will make it possible to limit the impacts of the mining project within the enclave and announced that they had started the design of a comprehensive and thorough environmental and social impact assessment to analyze all potential impacts, direct and indirect, within and outside the immediate footprint of the mine and related infrastructure.
As the monitoring mission is scheduled for May, it is likely that a revised draft decision will be proposed at the 31st session to include the findings and recommendations of the mission.