By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
Stakeholders at the just concluded second West African Mining Host Communities Indaba, have called on states within the West African region to domesticate the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mining code.
This is even as they called on ECOWAS national governments to take adequate steps to ensure the safeguard of mining host communities in the sub-region.
The three-day mining event which was held from Wednesday, November 23 to 25, 2022, with the theme “Enhancing Efficient Natural Resource Management for the Sustainability of Extractive Host Communities in West Africa” was organized by Global Rights and the African Coalition for Corporate Accountability (ACCA), with support from the Ford Foundation
The Communique in its recommendations urged “All states of the subregion to take immediate steps to ensure the domestication of the ECOWAS Mining Code and ensure its full implementation to enhance the sustainability of the extractive host communities in the subregion
The stakeholders in the communique which was unanimously adopted by participants at the event further stressed that the free, prior and informed consent of potential mining host communities must be sought and received before exploration and before every stage of mining while relevant government ministries, agencies or departments must publish Community Development Agreements (CDAs) submitted by mining companies with adequate local language translations for better comprehension by the host communities.
“The ECOWAS Mining Code holds the promise for improving the rights and environment of mining host communities across West Africa if implemented, they said. Further noting the failure of most member states of ECOWAS to domesticate the ECOWAS Mining Code since its 2014 deadline and the failure of ECOWAS to challenge their non-implementation.
“The failure by the governments of various West African states to implement laws that are applicable to regulating mining and protecting mining host communities; and in addition, gaps in many of the national laws on Minerals and Mining in the West Africa subregion enabled companies to violate human rights of host communities,” they said
They further noted that the extractive sector has and is generating tremendous wealth for foreign multinational corporations and private individuals, and yet immerse multidimensional inequalities, especially poverty, and negative environmental impacts, for mining-occupied communities in the subregion.
They further noted the failure of the various governments in the subregion to promote laws and policies to enhance the sustainability of mining host communities within the subregion, further stating that the ECOWAS Mining Directive and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples make specific mention of seeking the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of host communities and indigenous people as a prerequisite for any activity that affects their ancestral lands, territories and natural resources
While noting that the challenges that mining host communities faced have been further reinforced by new and emerging threats including mining-related forms of insecurity exacerbated mining of solid minerals by belligerent groups and terrorists to fund violent attacks in the subregion.
The Indaba which was attended by various actors from the mining host communities, the civil society sector, the government, and other stakeholders in the solid minerals sector noted the provisions of national laws of many West African countries that mandate that natural resources be developed consistent with the best interests of the communities from which they are harnessed;
They were also concerned about the high level of human rights violations and the negative impacts of mining activities on their host communities and observed the urgent need to enhance efficient natural resource governance for the sustainability of mining host communities in West Africa;
Following these observations, participants at the event urged that National governments must make Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) mandatory for the award of mining licenses and host communities should be made to actively engage in the process of ESIA.
Other recommendations included that national governments should establish specialized courts to hear mining-related cases., reform their obsolete solid minerals framework to ensure the sustainability of host communities, must prioritise the development of roadmaps to ensure climate-smart mining and the resilience of terrestrial ecosystems that are impacted by mining activities.
They further called on Mining host communities across West Africa to become more vocal in articulating their challenges and become more assertive in proffering solutions for their safeguard and development.