In 1981 the World Heritage Committee inscribed Mt. Nimba on the World Heritage List. In 1992 Mt Nimba was placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger by the Committee which requested the Centre to send an expert mission to: (a) ascertain the boundaries of the site at the time of inscription and recommend an appropriate boundary; (b) assess the impact of the iron-ore mine and other threats to the integrity of the site; (c) work towards an integrated rural development project.
The mission was carried out between 15 to 30 May 1993. It included representatives from the Centre, UNDP, UNEP, the Government of Guinea, NIMCO (the mining company), IUCN, CEDI (an international NGO in France), Guinea Ecology (local NGO) and two consultants as well as local specialists.
A comprehensive review of the part of Mt. Nimba situated in Guinea was carried out with extensive site and village visits and reviews of specific issues such as: the original nomination, the mineral body, the boundaries, and the socio-economic situation relating to local communities.
The major findings were as follows:
i) the site met World Heritage criteria at the time of the original nomination in 1981. It continues to meet these criteria;
ii) the site should remain on the List of World Heritage in Danger primarily because of the high risk of agricultural intrustions due to the lack of an established administrative structure and effective protection. At the present time, the Mt. Nimba Pilot Project provides a management presence, but this is not assured; Guinea was fully aware of the mineral potential. Over $25 million had been spent on prospecting and a potential ore body of 500 million tonnes had been identified. As the Government has stated, it was not their intention to include the mineral body in the World Heritage nomination. It is recommended that this perspective be accepted;
iv) the revised nomination submitted in 1991 should be considered as withdrawn, as it was not accepted by the Committee;
v) a revised nomination has been requested. It will include a revised area of 17,740 ha. which is 610 ha larger than the 1981 nomination of 17,130 ha. It is, however, 1,550 ha less than the true size of the 1981 nomination which was 19,290 ha, including the Côte d'Ivoire section of 5,200 ha. The area required for mineral operations (1,500 ha.) is not included in the World Heritage nomination;
vi) there are 18 recommendations in the mission report which is available from the World Heritage Centre. The recommendations include a commitment by the Government and the mining company to an "Environmental Convention" in which NGOs will be invited to participate. In addition, the mining company agrees, once the mine becomes operational, to contribute $500,000 per year towards conservation projects;
vii) until the war and the political situation in Liberia stabilises, it is unlikely that the mine will become operational;
viii) continued surveillance through a management presence is essential for the conservation of the site - primarily to prevent agricultural incursions into the World Heritage site.
The integrity of this site will require technical and financial support from the Committee until an adequate on-site management regime is established. It is recommended that $30,000 in emergency funds be provided for the express purpose of maintaining a management presence on the site.
The Bureau accepted the findings of the Task Force and concurred with the revised boundaries and the retention of the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Observer of Guinea expressed thanks for having organized this mission and the Bureau emphasized that it accepted the new boundaries and would pursue with vigour the implementation of the eighteen recommedations in the report. The Observer added that he welcomed the recommendation of Germany and the United States of America regarding the participation of the Centre in future environmental studies. The Government of Guinea submitted a request for $30,000 in emergency assistance to implement the recommendations.
Bureau members underlined their long-term concern for the protection of the site, which would undoubtedly receive some impact if the potential mine adjacent to the site became operational. The Government of Guinea agreed to take all measures to ensure that any impact of the mining operations would be subject to detailed environmental assessment and all measures would be taken to minimize potential damage.
IUCN again underlined its concern that potential repercussions of the mine in 30 to 40 years could become a future problem for the Committee. The Bureau was in agreement with the findings of the mission and was pleased that the mission was able to respond to the questions placed before them and to clarify the current status of the site.