#54 | Indigenous rights, identity, and spirituality vs. mining activities in Guinea. Interview with Bintou Camara

Our discussion today with Bintou Camara is filled with precious insights about the urgent sustainability issues faced by indigenous communities in Guinea, West Africa. Every day, these vulnerable groups confront the dangers posed to their social, economical, and spiritual lives by the mining activities in the territories they occupy. 

As animists, indigenous communities are deeply connected to and dependent on the natural environment, but the intense exploitation of bauxite leads to deforestation, water blockages, and land occupation. 

Bintou sheds light on the NGO activities she leads in the area that aim to preserve indigenous languages and spirituality. 

Also, we will reflect on the need for leaders and mediators who can include indigenous people at roundtable discussions about the future of their country. 

Learn all about these issues and many more in the full episode. Enjoy!

What you’ll learn: 

  • How indigenous languages and spirituality in Guinea are threatened by natural resource exploitation;
  • What types of projects are developed in endangered areas to communicate and protect indigenous communities rights;
  • How we can involve indigenous communities in economic activities in a way that benefits them.

Timecodes:

00:57 Introducing Bintou and her NGO

02:30 About miners’ slang and Boke city

06:10 Disappearance of animism and villages

08:30 About documenting indigenous languages

11:32 About the preservation of indigenous spirituality

15:10 About the mining companies in the region of Boke

21:00 About mediators between the local community and the mining companies

24:00 Why many locals can’t find a job at mining companies

26:50 What happened to Nauru islands

28:20 How the money from mining stimulates the economy of Guinea

32:00 About the concept of sustainability for Guinea

36:30 About gold exploitation by the locals

38:20 Is resource a blessing or a curse?

42:30 About corporate social responsibility

45:50 About the environmental side

52:20 About the importance of community for sustainability

57:10 What can be improved in the field

63:15 A piece of advice from Bintou

Books & other resources mentioned:

NGO Evolution: https://www.ngoevolution.com

International Finance Cooperation activity in Guinea: https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/news_ext_content/ifc_external_corporate_site/news+and+events/news/mining-for-long-term-change-in-guinea

Native American saying: When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realise that one cannot eat money.

Quotes of the guest:

We can preserve the language, but if they don’t practice what they use to practice, we don’t call them indigenous. They will lose their identity. This is what we are fighting for.

We say that agriculture is the first activity that will develop the country. It’s true because we have a lot of water sources. We have even the largest river in West Africa – Niger. But since we cannot exploit this river, we had to focus on the mining side of the country. We have so many resources – we’ll have to use them so that we can develop the country. But it doesn’t mean that by using these resources, we have to step on other communities so that we can develop the country.

I think we have to promote sustainability more than we are promoting mining exploitation. Because the mining exploitation has been going for a while now. Now we have to understand what we can do so that this exploitation doesn’t damage the country. We have to create projects that will stay for a long time and while creating these projects, we’ll have to involve people that are suffering from this mining exploitation. They’ll have to be involved in this process so that they understand their value and don’t lose their identity. And they have to be helped by the miners as well.

We need to create an institution of a group of indigenous leaders that will come at the table, while the government is discussing with these companies. So, there will be these three parties together and discuss at the beginning, before they start anything. Because if the community is left behind it’s going to be too late if the community wakes up one day.

One piece of advice: 

The sustainability issue of protecting indigenous communities in Guinea from industry exploitation, and specifically mining activities, is urgent because there is still time to stop irrevocable damage.

Guinea is not an industrialized country – yet. Indigenous communities are largely animists, meaning they are closely connected to nature, both economically and spiritually.

Thus, the impact of mining activities in these regions is deeply felt. In order to prevent threats for these communities, they need to start fighting now, before even larger investments that don’t take community rights and opinions into consideration are done.

As soon as possible, indigenous people need to start participating through leaders and mediators to roundtable discussions about the future of their country and their communities.