The Inception Workshop held in Brussels on the 15th and 16th of July was attended by a diverse group of more than 70 stakeholders, including representatives of 21 ACP countries, international organizations, bilateral partners, mining associations, small-scale miners, chambers of mines, regional and specialist institutions as well as civil society organizations active in the neglected development minerals sector.
This Inception Workshop acted as a consultative forum with diverse key stakeholders in the mining sector, contributing to enriched discourse and information exchange on the role of industrial minerals, construction materials, dimension stones, and semi-precious stones in the development agenda of the countries in the ACP region. The participants pledged their commitment to support the regional and country-level activities of the programme in their various capacities, in line with their roles in the mining sector.
After multi-lateral consultations with the ACP secretariat, and the EU, the specific objectives of the workshop were refined as follows:
- To identify the most suitable capacity development approaches, tools and potential partner institutions for each of the areas identified in the initiative
- To review experiences of similar initiatives targeting the neglected development minerals sector, in ACP countries or elsewhere
- To identify areas for knowledge sharing and cross-country collaboration and possible mechanisms for doing so
- To define institutional partnerships and collaborations, including with regional organizations
- To gather information about the small-scale mining of neglected development minerals in ACP countries
- To present the initiative's concept, design and workflow
- To present a draft background paper on neglected development minerals in ACP countries and gather further feedback and comments to complete the study
The inception workshop participants strongly welcomed the initiative, which they considered very timely and useful to support a sector that has not received a lot of international attention and is key for the local and national economies of the ACP.
Participants, however, expressed concern that the term Low Value Minerals and Materials (LVMM) can have negative connotations, with participants cautioning against the use of this term to describe the programme. Industrial minerals, construction materials, dimension stones, and semi-precious stones are referred to as 'low value' by economic geologists due to their low price as a function of their weight, and their relatively low value to international commodity markets. There was a widely held belief at the workshop that 'low value' implied that these commodities were not important for development when the opposite is actually the case. So called 'low value' minerals and materials provide crucial inputs for domestic economic development (infrastructure, manufacturing, construction and agriculture to name a few) and have the potential to be high value in terms of broad-based national development. It was further argued by some participants that the term 'low value' could be seen to be associated with a colonialist view that unduly preferences the importance of minerals exported for consumption by developed economies (so called high-value minerals), rather than minerals and materials that are important for local and domestic development. The programme team was therefore urged to adopt alternate language for this mining sub-sector.
Consequently, this feedback led to the adoption of ACP-EU Development Minerals Programme as the short-name for the programme, as agreed by consensus by the three programme partners – ACP secretariat, EU and UNDP. To reset the debate and shed the pejorative connotations associated with 'low value' commodities, the ACP-EU Development Minerals Programme also uses the term Development Minerals. Each mineral or material has unique links to economic, social and human development. Neglect in the development and the oversight of industrial minerals, construction materials, dimension stones and semi-precious stones can inhibit domestic development in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, and perpetuate environmental, social, and economic challenges of the sector.