ELKO — The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, in conjunction with U.S. Forest Service’s International Visitor Program and IREX Community Solutions, recently sponsored a minerals and geology fellow from Guinea in West Africa.
Joseph Dopavogui worked for a month with the forest’s mineral program staff on the Mountain City-Ruby Mountains-Jarbidge Ranger District in Elko.
“I was very excited when I received the request from the Forest Service Washington Office’s Minerals and Geology Management Department to host Joseph,” said Susan Elliott, Minerals Program Manager on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. “The minerals team rolled out the welcoming committee. They not only shared their professional knowledge, but also helped him enjoy living in Elko. Joseph quickly became a good friend to all of us and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Dopavogui is the executive director of a nongovernmental organization called Association for Mining Without Poverty. The NGO was formed to promote sustainable mining in Dopavogui’s home country. He has a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering and a master’s degree in exploration geology. The CSP Fellowship is helping Dopavogui gain experience in minerals management, environmental permitting and the community engagement process.
“I was excited to gain more experience with the community involvement process and the National Environmental Policy Act,” said Dopavogui. “I want to use my experience here in America to help local people in Guinea become more involved. The community is not educated enough to understand mining impacts on the environment and local economy.”
CSP is a professional leadership development program for community leaders worldwide. CSP fellows complete a four-month fellowship from August to December with a U.S. nonprofit organization or local government agency. Dopavogui was in Elko from about Aug. 15-Sept. 16. Fellows return home to apply their new skills through a community action project.
Forest’s Mineral Program staff on the Mountain City-Ruby Mountains-Jarbidge Ranger District in Elko also hosted an international intern from South Africa through the program several years ago, Elliott said.
Dopavogui started his fellowship working with the Forest Service’s Minerals and Geology Management staff in Denver, Colorado, before coming to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which has the largest locatable minerals (such as gold, silver, barite, and lithium) program and hosts the largest gold mine on National Forest System lands. Dopavogui also participated in the International Mining Seminar in Tucson, Arizona, and spent time at the Coronado National Forest in southern Arizona and Tonto National Forest in central Arizona.
While working on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, he worked on reviewing mining and proposed groundwater regulations and inspecting exploration plans. He also worked closely with the minerals team to gain knowledge about locatable minerals and environmental compliance by attending meetings, reviewing documents, inspecting mine sites, and assisting in the field with a reclamation project.
“This program has helped me gain valuable experience and knowledge of regulations and how they are applicable back home,” said Dopavogui. “I will be able to take inspection protocols and the community involvement practices back to Guinea and implement them for the benefit of our communities.”
When he returns home, Dopavogui plans to implement a project that will train and employ Youth Community Leaders. The youth will learn about specific mining projects and will go into local communities, sharing the projects’ effects, and educating and engaging community members to better participate in the planning process.