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Air pollution and land-grabbing for phosphates in Petite Mine, Sephos S.A., Senegal

Sephos S.A. is about to close the Petite Mine phosphates' deposit without having profited to the local populations who faught for health and job benefits, while their cultivations were diminishing due to phosphates' dust.


En Français ci-dessous ---------- Phosphates mining in Petite Mine (in Lam-Lam deposit) affects the local populations’ ”livelihoods, incomes and food security” while they neither enjoy direct financial benefits since the exploiting company Sephos S.A. is exonerated from paying taxes. At least 49 villages are directly affected by the Petite Mine exploitation. Located nearby to the Niayes, the area’s traditional sources of livelihoods are arboriculture and vegetables growing. Women were the first in the village of Koudiadiène to express their concerns as their kids were coming back from school covered in dust. Their vegetables gardens were also being covered by the same dust. The Pan African Institute for research, training and action for Citizenship, Consumer and Development (CICODEV) gathered the testimony of various women from the village, whose vegetable gardening yields have considerably diminished. Overall, CICODEV investigation in Koudiadiène reported widespread dust pollution, lack of water, vegetation loss, grazing lands’ disappearance, increasing respiratory health issues, and the diminishing of vegetables’ and fruits’ cultivation productivity along the years. The dust impacts on the rôniers trees, an African specie of palm tree, is alarming for the local populations because of its high economic and social values in the Serere culture. Rôniers’ branches, leaves, roots and sap have multiple uses. The tea specie Kinkeliba is also endangered and under the risk of disappearing in the zone. Sources of tension and disappointement for the villagers are numerous, such as the lack of employment in the mine for the local youth and the low amounts of compensation for the trees’ loss. Sephos S.A. pays twenty-two (22) Euros for the loss of a rônier, when the compansation actually happens (which has not always been the case). The jobs for the locals are precarious, very low paid (4.6 Euros a day) and too scarce for the youth whose unemployment rate is high. None of the young people from Koudiadiene and Thiafathie villages are employed in the mine and the issue raises tension with other villages since the young people from Lam-Lam and Baliga are working for the company. In May 2017, CICODEV, together with Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN) and Red de Entidades para el Desarrollo Solidario (REDES) organized meetings in Koudiadiène with the local leaders and with Sephos’ managers. Thanks to the involvement of these actors from the civil society, leaders from the village met with the company’s representatives. The latter committed to provide with agricultural training for young people, some medicines to the dispensary of Koudiadiène and to make available an ambulance for the population. The redaction and communication by Sephos S.A. on a restorative plan remains vague (the depletion of the deposit is expected to happen by the end of 2017). 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Air pollution and land-grabbing for phosphates in Petite Mine, Sephos S.A., Senegal
State or province:Thiès
(municipality or city/town)Localité Lam-Lam, commune de Chérif Lô, département de Tivaouane
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Land acquisition conflicts
Tailings from mines
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:phosphates alumino-calciques , phosphoric rock
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

En Français ci-dessous ---------------- Lam-Lam open pit has been originally exploited by the French Rhone Poulen company from the 1950s onwards. At that time, Senegal was still part of the colonial territories of the French West Africa. The Société Sénégalaise des Phosphates de Thiès (SSPT) also took part to the exploitation of Lam-Lam deposit. SSPT was bought in 1998 by the Spanish multinational Tolsa S.A. The reserves of the deposit are estimated to be of 80 million tons of phosphates. Since 2009, Sephos S.A exploits only a limited area of Lam-Lam deposit, called the “Petite Mine”, extending over an area of 500 ha between the villages of Koudiadiène and Lam-Lam Sérère. Sephos S.A. is the Senegalese subsidiary of the Spanish company Tervalis Desarrollo S.A. Approximately 1,4 million tons of phosphate rock have been extracted from the mine since 2009 and the phosphates are mainly exported to Europe. In January 2016, and in anticipation of the expected depletion of the deposit by the end of 2017, Sephos S.A. asked for a new concession permit between the villages of Tivaouane and Pire. In that area, Sephos S.A. obtained an exploration permit in May 2011 which was renewed in 2014. Yet 1.672 hectares of the concerned area are already part of a concession granted to the Industries Chimiques du Senegal company. The Senegalese justice has to decide to which company finally granting the exploitation permit. If the concession is obtained, Sephos S.A. has already expressed its willingness to build a phosphoric acid plant, a sulfuric acid plant and a fertilizer plant (3). Another Polish phosphates mining company settled in 2012 in the surroundings of Koudiadiène, African Investment Group (AIG).

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Project area:500
Level of Investment:5,000,000.00
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:5,000
Company names or state enterprises:Rhône-Poulenc from France - French company which started the exploitation of Lam-Lam deposit in the 1950s
Tervalis Desarrollo S.A. from Spain
Société sénégalaise des phosphates (Sephos) from Senegal - Exploiting Area 8 of Lam-Lam deposit since 2009
Tolsa S.A. from Spain - Tolsa bought SSPT in 1998 and so exploited the Lam Lam from that year until 2009.
General Maintenance Enterprise (GME) from Senegal - subcontracted by Sephos, provides with the required material for the exploitation
Société Sénégalaise des phosphates de Thies (SSPT) from Spain - Exploited the Lam-Lam mine between the 1950s and 2009
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:CICODEV - , Le Réseau Foi et Justice Afrique-Europe (AEFJN) , REDES -
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Mine tailing spills, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Other Environmental impactsloss of forest species, no rehabilitation of the extraction holes by the company
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Deaths, Other Health impacts
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition
Other Health impactschildren drown in mine´s pond, respiratory diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Specific impacts on women
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, displacement
Other socio-economic impactslow wages and precarious jobs, youth unemployment, increasing poverty in the villages impacted by the exploitation, potential displacement of Koudiadiène
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Strengthening of participation
Development of alternatives:CICODEV asks Sephos S.A. to keep the promises made following the meeting in May 2017 (concerning health, trainings for the youth, financing micro-credits, communicating on the rehabilitation plan which would include environmental social and economic aspects measures). According to CICODEV the case of Sephos S.A.’s exploitation illustrates the need in future mining projects to respect the Senegalese legislation: consultation of the concerned populations beforehand, realization of the study of socio-environmental impacts, fair compensations and setting up mechanisms for the populations to enjoy direct benefits. AEFJN has reflected upon broader issues: questioning the Northern countries’ agricultural model so it becomes less dependent on fertilizers (1). The excessive use of fertilizers damages the soils where it is used and endangers food security of the communites directly affected by the extraction of the phosphates. AEFJN advocates for biological agriculture which helps the natural regeneration of the soils. According to Greenpeace, 70 to 80% of European soils could maintain the same yields without adding phosphorus (4).

---------------- En Français --------------- Cicodev demande à ce que Sephos S.A. tienne les promesses faite suite à la rencontre réalisé en mai 2017 (concernant la santé, la formation des jeunes, le financement de micro-crédits, la communication du plan de réhabilitation qui inclut des mesures environnementales et de suivi social et économique de la région). Le cas de Koudiadiène d’après CICODEV illustre le besoin dans les futurs projets miniers de respecter la législation sénégalaise: consultation des populations concernées au préalable, réalisation de l’étude d’impacts socio-environnementaux, des compensations justes et mise en place de mécanismes pour que les populations aient des bénéfices directs. AEFJN réfectionne sur une problématique plus large, celle de revoir le modèle agricole des pays du Nord (dans le cas des phosphates de Koudiadiène, le modèle européen). L’utilisation excessive de fertilisants nuit les sols où ils sont utilisés et met aussi en danger la sécurité alimentaire dans les zones affectées par l’extraction des phosphates. AEFJN préconise l’agriculture biologique qui peut favoriser la régénération naturelle des sols (1). D’après un rapport de Greenpeace de 2012, 70 à 80 % des sols européens pourraient maintenir le même niveau de rendements sans l’utilisation de fertilisants à base de phosphates (4).
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The outcomes of CICODEV and EAFJN work from May 2017 remain uncertain, depending on the good will of Sephos S.A. to keep its promises. Since the mining operation are about to cease in Petite Mine, the populations have noticed a decrease of the dust pollution. It remains crucial that Sephos S.A. consult the locals for the elaboration and implementation of the rehabilitation plan.

------------ En Français ----------- L’aboutissement du travail de CICODEV et d’AEFJN reste incertain, tout dépend de la bonne volonté de Sephos S.A. à tenir ses promesses. Etant donné que la mine va très bientôt arrêter ses opérations les villageois ont noté une baisse de la poussière, il reste primordiale que Sephos S.A. consulte les populations dans l’élaboration et la mise en place du plan de réhabilitation.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Loi n° 2003-36 du 24 novembre 2003, portant Code Minier
[click to view]

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

Convention Minière, Gouvernement du Sénégal et La société Sénégalaise Phosphates de Thiès, Périmètre de Lam-Lam, 2013
[click to view]

(4) Reyes Tirado & Michelle Allsopp¡, Phosphorus in agriculture, Problems and solutions, Greenpeace Research Laboratories, 02-2012
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Sephos Senegal S.A.
[click to view]

La maldicion de los recursos, 10/12/2015
[click to view]

Koudiadiène: a case in progress, AEFJN, June 30, 2017
[click to view]

Aurora M. Alcojor, El caso de la explotación de fosfatos en una pequeña villa de Senegal, 6 enero 2016
[click to view]

Phosphates de Thies, la mine des problemes
[click to view]

Conflit autour d'une mine de phosphates dans la région de Thiès, Dakar Post, Janvier 2016
[click to view]

(1) Phosphate Mining: an Unsustainable Business, AEFJN
[click to view]

(3) Découverte minière a Thies, Tivaouane Pire assise sur du phosphate, Le Quotidien, 28 Décembre 2016
[click to view]

Presentation AEFJN Study on Phosphate Mining in Senegal in Madrid
[click to view]

Sénégal: Société sénégalaise des phosphates de Thiès: les travailleurs réclament une autre privatisation, 8/10/2002
[click to view]

Sénégal: La société sénégalaise des phosphates de Thiès interdite d'exploitation de chaux - Les syndicalistes demandent à l'Etat de revoir sa position, 25/11/2009
[click to view]

Phosphates de Thiès: La mine des problèmes, 17/02/2016
[click to view]

(2) Focus, Mines et industries extractives, Africa Business, 11 Mars 2017
[click to view]

Phosphates de Thiès : Deux garçons meurent noyés dans un bassin, Seneweb, 8 Aout 2012
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Rapport de CICODEV, AEFJN, Koudiadiène, une exploitation à l'épreuve ... des textes, Mars 2015
[click to view]

Informe en español de CICODEV, La exploitacion minera de Koudiadiène: una legislacion sin verdadero debate, Traduccion por REDES
[click to view]

CICODEV and AEFJN Report, Koudiadiène, a mining operation under scrutiny… evidence, English Version, 2015
[click to view]

Other documents

Sephos' phosphates mine, May 2014 Source.
[click to view]

Vignoble sérère, arbres rôniers Source.
[click to view]

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Last update24/02/2018