The Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) has asked government to domesticate the ECOWAS directive on the Harmonisation of Guiding Principles and Policies in the mining sector.
The Harmonisation of Guiding Principles and Policies in the mining sector are simply a set of rules which have been formulated by the ECOWAS bloc to guide mining activities in the region, by ensuring that mineral resources are harnessed for growth and development in the sub-region.
Although government gazetted the directives in 2011, the Director of ACEP Dr. Mohammed Amin Adam said government has not shown any seriousness in domesticating the directives and other international and national mining laws, especially in the area of enforcing free, prior and informed consent.
“Ghana has only gazetted the directive but we are yet to domesticate it either by amending existing laws and providing for it, or by developing and passing a new community protection law as Kenya is doing in order to ensure that these communities are not directly or indirectly affected,” he said.
One of the key principles of the directive is the obligation placed on mining companies to respect the rights of local communities, whereby companies shall obtain free, prior and informed consent of local communities before exploration of minerals begins and prior to each subsequent phase of mining and post-mining operations.
The companies are to also maintain consultations and negotiations on important decisions affecting local communities throughout the mining cycle.
Dr. Amin explained there are issues relating to resettlement, adequate compensation and human rights abuses, and if communities do not have the right to free, prior and informed consent then they are virtually left at the mercy of decisions that are made by politicians and investors.
He added that since Ghana’s main aim is attracting investors to the mining sector and these investors do not want impediments which will hinder their smooth operations, the citizens suffer in the long-run.
“Both investors and government are hungry for mineral resources and revenue to the detriment of the citizenry, especially the rights of communities affected by extraction.”
Dr. Amin called on all who have a voice to let government understand that even though revenues from mineral resources are needed, it should not be at the expense of the communities’ rights.
“This is what underscores the relevance of having a provision that allows the enforcement of free, prior and informed consent. If communities are insisting that certain things must be done before any mining project, or decide not to give their consent, then the investment will not be undertaken.”
Dr. Amin was speaking at the launch of a project called ‘Our Mineral Resources’, which aims at training a network of local community people and equipping them with devices that can support community reporting on violation of human rights, or other adverse socio-environmental impacts near mining operations, by using new ICT solutions.
As a joint effort between ACEP and WACAM Ghana — a human rights and environmental mining advocacy organisation, the project is also being support by IBIS, a Danish non-governmental organisation, and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).
The community reports will be published via social media and other platforms that will become an informal grievance mechanism supported by a vertical web of civil society and other stakeholder supporters linking up to the national and international levels.
The project is currently being piloted in two districts — Asutsifi North in the Brong Ahafo Region and Fanteakwa in the Eastern Region.
“It is expected that supporting mining-affected communities through the innovative application of new ICT to report violation of their rights, will influence mining companies and government officials to be accountable to affected mining communities, and mobilise national and global support for fair and responsible mining to the benefit of the country,” said Associate Executive Director of WACAM, Hannah Owusu-Koranteng.