With an annual turnover of more than two billion euros and an exploitation rate of 102.208 tons per month, the Senegalese Society of Phosphates (SEPHOS, S.A) operates in the outskirts of Koudiadiéne. However, this exploitation is causing environmental and health problems to the population without the company taking any adequate measures to prevent them. What has become embarrassing situation is that, the company has denied, lied and ignored the agreements reached in the dialogue held in May 2017 between the representatives of the company and authorities of Koudiadiéne.
Among the lies were the company’s version of the story that the Koudiadiéne’s phosphate mine was almost depleted, that it was unprofitable for the company to keep operational and that the closure of the mine was imminent. During the meeting held in Koudiadiéne SEPHOS’ offices, a gentleman’s agreement was reached between the company and the representatives of Koudiadiéne in which the company agreed to a set of commitments to the people affected by the exploitation in the mine, such as provision of medicines for the local dispensary, the use of the company’s ambulance by the community and the promotion of employment opportunities among young people. Unfortunately, when the population demanded from the company for a fulfilment of their agreed obligations to the community, the company denied knowledge of existence of such an agreement. Likewise, the company has refused to present to us and to the community the restoration plan of the mine. Such a plan is required by the national law and suggested by international guidelines on business and human rights. The villagers are wondering if it is because the plan doesn’t exist or if it is because such a plan is useless.
Currently, the company has closed all avenues for dialogues with the population and other interlocutors like AEFJN in Brussels and REDES in Madrid. SEPHOS is a prototype of the impunity of European companies when they operate in Africa. It is relevant to point out that SEPHOS has not only profaned the environment of the area, but has also violated among others the essential rule that regulate the establishment of a mining company and makes it mandatory for them to report on the social and environmental impact and risk of the mine before exploitation. Such report was presented two years after the beginning of exploitation of the mine in 2011.
The numerous interpellations presented for the protection of the environment have fallen on deaf ears of the leaders of the company who have continued to degrade the environment in the vicinity of the mine. The mine is turning the Koudiadiéne arable land completely unusable for agriculture not only for the present but also for the future use of the land. So far the deterioration of the land provoked by the mine has prevented the people of Koudiadiéne from practicing their daily activities and above all agricultural practices. In the past, Koudiadiéne was made up of small agricultural and livestock communities that live from the production of seasonal products such as tomatoes, beans or peas but it is something unthinkable nowadays.
The Senegalese Society of Phosphate does not respect its legal obligation to protect the environment and has not respected its commitment to the population. The company says often that it is no longer interested in the mine of Koudiadiéne, warning that it has found another place to exploit perhaps without so many inconveniences to the population.
However, the population knows through other sources that this is simply a strategy to avoid their responsibilities. Even if it were true that SEPHOS has found another mine in Senegal, their leaders have not shown any sign that they will leave Koudiadiéne very soon, which shows that the mine is still profitable. Spreading the fake news that the company will leave the site very soon discourages the population from standing up against the company who continues to operate normally and with impunity. In any case, the company has not informed the current workers of her intention to temporarily or definitively shut dawn the mine, so the workers live with the uncertainty of continuity in their jobs.
Meanwhile, it should be noted that the Senegalese Society of Phosphate has not only deprived Koudiadiéne of arable land, but also of grazing land, and devastated its environment. As a result, the population, who no longer have land to cultivate or graze their cattle, and who are not employed by the factory, live in a very precarious situation. Dust from the mine and from the road (a side road about two kilometers long) leading to the factory also sticks to the trees, impeding their growth and production.
It is in this polluted and degraded universe where this population of Koudiadiéne has lived for more than a decade because of the mining exploitation of SEPHOS. In spite of the numerous cries and questions of its population to the Spanish people in charge of the mine, Koudiadiéne continues to look impotently at its looted wealth and its environment degraded by the Senegalese Society of Phosphates (SEPHOS/SA).
Samuel N. B. NDIOLENE
Habitant de Koudiadiéne