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Projet Grande Côte for zircon and ilmenite mining, Senegal

Projet Grande Côte displaced vegetables gardeners and continues pumping the water resources at the expense of agriculture. The cohabitation between the zircon mining project and the inhabitants is fragile due to the many unkept promises by the company.


En Français ci-dessous - The Niayes (Thiès region), a narrow band 25km wide stretching for 180km between Dakar and Saint-Louis along the Atlantic coast, was traditionally dedicated to vegetables gardening and fruit growing. Yet today, Thiès is considered the largest mining area in the country, whose activity is concentrated in the Niayes. The Project Grande Côte (GCO) exploits mineralized sand (zircon, elmenite, rutile and leucoxene) and even though it is mostly located on the coast, lands previously dedicated to agriculture have also been annexed. The farmers and the populations directly affected by this annexation were not consulted beforehand. A departmental commission was in charge of determining the amounts of compensation that would be received by the concerned farmers. On July 1st 2013, when villagers opposed the visit of this commision on their lands, twenty-one (21) of them were arrested by the police and they were judged by the court of Thiès. The verdict, on July 19th 2013, sentenced three of them to three months in prison: Ibra Fall, Gora Wade and Djibril Bèye, who are vegetable producers from the village of Diogo "for the offenses of illegal assembly and plunder of machinery belonging to the factory MDL "(Mineral Deposit Limited, one of GCO's shareholders). Thirteen (13) other farmers were condemned to a three months suspended prison sentence. GCO has compensated the farmers with amounts up to five times higher than those imposed by Senegalese law (i.e. 3,750,000 CFA francs per hectare instead of 750,000 CFA francs). The compensation scales set by law date back to 1994 and they have never been updated. The amounts paid by GCO were defined by the departmental commission. And yet, the received compensation was considered insufficient by many villagers. According to the sub-prefect of Méouane, a total of 644 producers were impacted and compensated for a total sum of 802,136,734 CFA francs. Seven hamlets of Diogo and Foth were displaced in February 2017. Their new city is called Medinatoul Mounawara. However, access to arable land and water resources for the displaced people has been significantly reduced, threatening the long-term sustainability of the project. Project Grande Côte is just one of the many industrial projects that threaten the land and vegetables gardening of the Niayes. At least 80% of the vegetables produced in the Niayes come from the surroundings of Diogo. Niayes’ arable land has already been considerably reduced. Land grabbing goes in hand with water grabbing (and its pollution). Since the beginning of GCO, the lack of water is impacting the area. Vegetable production has slowed down since the beginning of GCO and underground water, previously available at 5 meters deep, today requires wells of 12 meters. Residents recall that many promises were not kept by GCO. In terms of youth employment, very little has been achieved. Even after the organization of a six months training for local youth, a derisory number of them were employed by the company. GCO also did not keep the promise of granting one job per dispossessed family. These families must find alternative sources of income, alternatives that are less sustainable and more fluctuating than farming (trading agricultural products, being cab drivers, etc.). The well for the village of Diogo has not been dug. Finally, in terms of health, the promised hospital at Darou Fall was not built but an ambulance in Diogo started operating by mid-May 2016, funded by GCO (information collected by the author in Darou Fall, October 2017). The associations of vegetable gardeners, with the support of NGOs, organize their advocacy work for the protection of the arable lands so that the remaining lands in the Niayes are protected. Enda Pronat has been working in the area since the media coverage of Diogo farmers’ uprising in 2013. Since then, the NGO has regularly organized workshops, notably in Thiès, Taiba Ndaye, Darou Khoudoss and Diogo, to sensitize the populations on their land rights so that they are better prepared in the case of future land grabbing projects. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Projet Grande Côte for zircon and ilmenite mining, Senegal
State or province:Region of Thiès
Location of conflict:Diogo, Tivaouane county
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Tailings from mines
Land acquisition conflicts
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Sand minerals - zircon, ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene.
Sand, gravel
Project Details and Actors
Project details

En Français ci-dessous --------- The Project Grande Côte S.A. (GCO) is a 25-year renewable concession, granted by presidential decree in November 2007. Tizir owns 90% of the capital of GCO and the Senegalese State is a 10% shareholder. Tizir is a joint venture owned in equal shares by the French company Eramet and Australians Mineral deposit limited (MDL). The project's mining concession covers an area of 106 km long on the Atlantic coast and is located on a coastal mobile dune area (in the Niayes), on a total area of 445km2. The concession begins 50 km north-east of Dakar and extends to the North, not far from the city of Saint Louis. GCO exploits zircon and ilmenite (and also rutile and leucoxene). Zircon is used in building materials (tiling) and in advanced industries such as aerospace. Ilmenite is used for the production of paper and plastic. The mine is being commercially exploited since March 24, 2014. GCO’s general manager Daniel Marini estimates the deposit at 500,000 tons of ilmenite and 60,000 tons of zircon, which makes GCO the sixth zircon mine in the world and the seventh in ilmenite (1). Seven thousand (7,000) tons of sands are processed per hour. Once filtered, the sand is redeposited on the site. The mining complex consists of a trailer, a 36 MW diesel power plant to power the mine, an ore separation plant, and a 122-km long railway that connects the mine to the port of Dakar.

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Project area:44.500
Level of Investment for the conflictive project800,000,000.00
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:40,000
Start of the conflict:2008
Company names or state enterprises:Mineral Deposits Limited (MDL) from Australia - Détient 50% de Tizir Limited, qui opère la mine
Eramet from France - Détient 50% de Timizir, qui opère la mine
Tizir Limited from France - La française Eramet et l'australienne Mineral deposit limited (Mdl) détiennent à eux deux 90% de GCO, les 10% restant appartiennent à l'Etat sénégalais
Entreprise Grande Côte Opérations (GCO) from Senegal - Détenue à 10% par l'Etat sénégalais et à 90% par Timizir Limited
Wärtsilä from Finland - Construit la centrale au diesel pour fournir l'énergie nécessaire à la mine
Dawnus from United Kingdom - Construction a road and railway connecting GCO to the port of Dakar
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Enda Pronat, Réseau des personnes affectées par les opérations minières, Conseil National de Concertation et de Coopération des Ruraux (CNCR), Union des groupements maraîchers (UGM).
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Accidents, Malnutrition
Other Health impactsRisques d'exposition à l'uranium et au thorium radioactifs, contenus dans le zircon exploité
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Land dispossession, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:Stop the on-going land and water grabbing in the Niayes, affirm its agricultural vocation, jobs for the local youth at GCO and increase social benefits for the population, Reconsider the politics on displacements: more inclusive, supporting the concerned populations (2)
----------- Stopper l'accaparement de l'eau et de la terre dans les Niayes, affirmer la vocation agricole de la région, travail pour la jeunesse locale à GCO, renforcer les bénéfices sociaux pour la population, reconsidérer les politiques de déplacements: plus inclusives, soutien suivi pour les populations concernées (2).
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Some of the populations' claims have been satisfied (the ambulance in Diogo), but many remain not heard. Risk in the long-run to extend the exploitation as the concession area is much larger than the area currently being exploited.
----------- Quelques une des demandes des populations ont été satisfaites (ambulance à Diogo) mais de nombreuses autres restent sans réponse. Risque sur le long-terme que l'exploitation soit étendue, la superficie de la concession est plus large que la superficie actuellement exploitée.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Loi N°2016-32, du 08 Novembre 2016, Nouveau Code Minier Sénégalais
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Le nouveau code minier sénégalais, court résumé
[click to view]

Grande Côte Operations Brings Economic Boost to Senegal with Globally Significant Mining Project, Grande Côte Operations, October 2014
[click to view]

La production de zircon et d'ilménite a démarré à Diogo, Seneweb, 2 Avril 2014
[click to view]

Grande Côte Operation, Tizir Limited
[click to view]

Audit foncier : Les producteurs pour la préservation de la vocation agricole des Niayes, Le Soleil, 22 juillet 2017
[click to view]

Grande Côte Operation, English Presentation of the Project by Tizir Co.
[click to view]

Après le soulèvement de Diogo contre l’usine Mdl : Le Chef de village parmi les 21 personnes arrêtées, 04/07/2013
[click to view]

Les expropriés de Diogo entre incompréhension et fatalisme, 22/01/2015
[click to view]

(1) Interview exclusive avec Daniel Marini, ADG de Grande Cote Operation au Sénégal, Financial Afrik, 9/05/2017
[click to view]

Sénégal – Mines : naissance d’un géant, au nord de Diogo, 22/03/2012
[click to view]

Diogo – Un litige foncier paralyse l’exploitation du zircon : Le Trésor sénégalais perd 3,5 milliards de Frs par mois
[click to view]

Grande Côte Opération injecte 650 millions de dollars pour exploiter le zircon au Sénégal, Financial Afrik, 10/04/2014
[click to view]

(2) Compensation, impenses et indemnisation: une harmonisation des textes recommandée, IPAR, 2 Décembre 2015
[click to view]

Ces bombes à retardement que la CNRF doit désamorcer, Sud Quotidien, 02/07/2016
[click to view]

Diogo : 3 producteurs condamnés à un mois ferme, 13 autres à 3 mois avec sursis, 19/07/2013
[click to view]

La production de zircon et d'ilménite a démarré à Diogo, 02/04/2014
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

The Grande Côte mineral sands operation (GCO), Video presentation of the Project by Mineral Deposits Limited
[click to view]

Projet Grande Côte Opérations, Présentation par MDL
[click to view]

Exploitation de l'Or et du Zircon au Sénéga, Vidéo par MDL
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Camila Rolando Mazzuca
Last update24/02/2018
Conflict ID:2946
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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