If nothing is done to stop them, the backhoes will be allowed to begin gutting the Niafrang sand dune in Casamance, from October onward, in search of heavy minerals like zircon.

For the Senegalese state, and especially for Astron, an Australian multinational corporation based in China (Hong Kong), the expected profits amount to millions of West African CFA. For defenders of the environment, biodiversity, and sustainable development, there are other stakes: after the destruction of the forest and marine resources, the destruction of natural resources in Casamance will follow, responding to external (for the most part Chinese) demand, to the detriment of the people.
The protection of a rich and complex, yet fragile, ecosystem is at stake in Niafrang, encompassing the ocean, mangroves, and the dune, which a Marine Protected Area (MPA) should, in principle, protect as a sanctuary. But, as if by a miracle, the MPA of Abene officially stops right where the area ceded to the mining company begins. This opens the door for environmental destruction, particularly of mangroves, one of the richest ecosystems in the world. Coastal areas of Casamance are the principal location of mangroves in Senegal. By absorbing atmospheric carbon, these mangroves contribute to the fight against global warming. By breaking ocean waves, they slow down coastal erosion. They are a unique source of refuge for biodiversity, home to many animal species of fish, shellfish, sea turtles, monkeys, and birds. They also provide innumerable food and other resources for local people. 
Yet this coastline is fragile: like elsewhere in Senegal, it is threatened by submersion from sea level rise, exacerbated by increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather events (which are not taken into consideration by the official impact study for the mining project). As a result of these processes, the coast is also threatened by salinization of water and soils.
Mineral extraction will do nothing but aggravate these threats, exacerbating existing risks from climate change and creating new ones:
-Destabilizing the dune (despite the precautions taken), which jeopardizes the entire area protected by it, including thousands of hectares of agricultural fields, forty villages, and thousands of people.
-Increasing salinization of water and soils as a result of pumping groundwater, which will endanger agriculture and people.
-Inevitably creating pollutants.

The financial stakes are such that the mining company used, with more or less success, all the means at their disposal to try to win the support of local populations, often poor and neglected by public policy. They are also high enough that the Senegalese state has to the present remained deaf to the strong opposition expressed locally and to the warnings of researchers and specialists from around the world. These concerns are based on a highly contested environmental and social impact study, criticized for its serious inadequacies, as much in form (in which the expert consultant is both the judge and jury) as in content (methodological and scientific flaws). It clearly excludes any independent study, as if it would fear the results.

We do not oppose development—what we oppose is pursuing short-term profit to the detriment of sustainable development, which preserves resources for future generations. In the face of climate emergency, now is not the time to increase the vulnerability of natural environment. Rather, the area needs prevention and adaptation. In this domain, grassroots alternatives exist; some of these, beginning with reforestation of mangroves and of the dune, are already being implemented.
We are by no means setting the interests of a few thousand villagers in opposition to those of 15 million Senegalese, and we are not opposed to all mining projects. However, based on scientific information, we are opposed to the starting up of this particular project in this particular environment, due to the risks that it will create for this environment and for the people who depend on it. This is a question of social choice, and this choice concerns all of us!

This is why:

-We call on the state to respect its commitments to transparency in mining projects, dialogue, and sustainable development, both toward its citizens and toward international institutions (NEPAD, COP21, etc.), and therefore to suspend the commencement of mining operations until an independent impact study has been completed.

-We call on civil society organizations and representatives of the people, or those who aspire to these roles, to sign this demand and to do everything in their power to peacefully oppose the commencement of operations in favor of fostering true debate, based on objective information.


15 July 2017
Initial signatories:

The group of 34 researchers and specialists who signed the September 2015 open letter to the president (, the original iteration of this demand. Other researchers have also joined:
. Pape Chérif Bertrand Bassène Akandijack (Historian, University of Ziguinchor)
. Patrick Chevalier (Economist, Ziguinchor)
. Luc Descroix (Hydrologist, Dakar)
. Ashley Fent (Geographer, University of California, Los Angeles)
. Céline Labrune-Badiane (Historian, Paris)
. Philippe Meguelle (Historian, University of Ziguinchor)
. Albinou Ndecky, (Sociolinguist, University of St Louis, Senegal)
. Mamadou Niokane (Environmentalist, Ziguinchor)
. Bill Benoît Tendeng (Environmentalist, University of Chicoutimi, Canada)

. Advocates for Community Alternatives (Ghana)
. Objectif Transition (France)
. Casamance Horizons (Niafrang)
. SOS Casamance (Paris)
. IDEE Casamance (Ziguinchor)
. IEFR (France)

. Y’en a marre (Dakar)
. Comité de lutte international contre le zircon en Casamance (Niafrang)
. Association des étudiants pour le développement de la Casamance (Dakar)
. Association des fils de la Casamance pour la paix et le développement (Paris)

Public figures:
. Abdou Sané, former Deputy, Departmental Councilor of Ziguinchor, President of the African Association for the Promotion of Catastrophic Risk Reduction
- Ousmane Sonko, Jacques Attali

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Collectif Appel de la Dune    Contact the author of the petition