Ghana gazettes ECOWAS Directives on Mining Sector

Ghana has gazetted the “Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Directive on The Harmonization of Guiding Principles and Policies in the Mining Sector” to serve as a notice to Ghanaians of its existence.

The gazetting also serves notice that steps are being taken toward making it a law in the country.

One of the key principles of the Directive is the obligation placed on mining companies to respect the rights of local communities – “companies shall obtain free, prior and informed consent of local communities before exploration begins and prior to each subsequent phase of mining and post-mining operations; maintain consultations and negotiations on important decisions affecting local communities throughout the mining cycle (Article 16)”.

Mining companies have the obligation to respect and promote recognized human rights, including the rights of women, children and workers (Article 15).

The Directive, which was enacted by the 62nd Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers in Abuja in May 2009, makes the submission of corporate social responsibility and alternative livelihood programmes by mining companies as part of the conditions for granting mining rights (Article 11).

It states that: “Where land is required for the development of mineral resource, the land must be acquired or occupied in accordance with existing laws of Member States.  The owner or lawful occupier of such land shall be paid adequate and prompt compensation (Article 4).”

The computation of the compensation should take into consideration: losses; disturbances; losses and damages suffered by immovable assets; loss of revenue (including expected losses of agricultural revenue) in accordance with best international practices (Article 4).

To protect the environment, the Directive has designated “no go zones” for mining activities if such lands have environmental, social and cultural sensitivity (Article 4) – forest reserves for example.

It states that: “In the granting or withdrawal of mining rights there shall be transparency at each stage of the decision making process (Article 5)”, adding: “Qualification for acquiring a mining right in a Member State must meet international best practices in the mining industry and shall include respect of the integrity of the environment; rights of mining communities; a plan approved by the competent authority for the mining companies to utilise local goods, services and manpower (Article 5).”

The main areas the Directive deals with are: Ownership of Minerals; Grantor of Mining Rights; Eligibility for Grant of Mining Rights; Fiscal Framework; Foreign Exchange Controls; Equity Participation by Member States and Localisation Policy.

The others are; Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining; Stabilisation Agreement; Acquisition or Occupation of Land and Compensation; Dispute Settlement/Complaint Procedure; Indigenous/ Special Rights/Human Rights and Environmental Protection.

Speaking to the GNA, Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, Executive Director of WACAM, a human rights and mining advocacy nongovernmental organisation, commended the Government for gazetting the Directives.

He said mining communities could challenge the impunity of mining companies in the law courts if the Directives eventually became law.

Source: GNA

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