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General News Fri, 29 May 2009

ECOWAS commended for action on mining

Accra, May 29, GNA - A Coalition of non-governmental organisation and civil society organisations has congratulated the Council of ECOWAS Foreign Ministers on the conclusion of the adoption process of the ECOWAS Directive on the Harmonisation of Guiding Principles and Policies in the Mining Sector in Abuja, Nigeria on 26 May 2009. Speaking at a press conference in Accra, Mr Kwabena Bomfeh, Spokesperson for the Coalition, made up of Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL); Youth for Action Ghana (YAG); Centre for Labour Rights and Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM), among other organisations, said the ECOWAS Directive addressed important weaknesses in Ghana's mining regulations. The regulatory framework include defining; "No Go Zones" for mining; Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), which empowers community people to say no to mining operations which have grave negative consequences and also make environmental information easily accessible to the public. The Coalition said since ECOWAS States were competing for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Mining Sector they formulated policies that served the corporate objectives of profit maximisation rather than the sovereign interest of host nations. It said instead of West Africans reaping the benefits from their natural wealth for poverty reduction, most countries in the Sub-Region including Ghana have been gripped by a "Resource Curse ", which had translated into gross human rights abuses in host communities; displacement of thousands of community people to give way to mining; loss of livelihoods; forced evictions; resettlement problems; payment of ridiculously low compensation; low royalty payment; worsening poverty; environmental problems such as pollution of water bodies, among other negative impacts. The Coalition said mining was inherently an unsustainable economic activity since it involved the exploitation of non-renewable natural resource. It said it was this light that the ECOWAS Commission initiated a concerted strategy to develop a Sub-Regional policy on mining based on high standards of accountability for mining companies and governments. "The initiative involved a wide participatory process, which brought together different stakeholders, government officials, International Financial Institutions, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and mining communities. Our organisations were involved in the consultation processes to ensure that the ECOWAS policy on mining is pro-poor;, respectful of environmental and human rights and keeps government and mining companies accountable through good governance practices," the Coalition said. It said the objectives of the ECOWAS Directive comply with the provisions of Article 31, Chapter 6 of the Revised Treaty, which prescribed the harmonisation of policies in the natural resources sector of Member States and the objectives were in the main the adoption a common mining policy and a common mining code. The main convergence of the Guiding Principles formally stated in the formulation of the Directive are: to contribute to macro-economic development of the Member States, on which territory the mining operations are conducted, and of the region as a whole by particularly ensuring a balance between the incentives to attract mining investment and national interest of the Member States. It is to strengthen the Member States' capacity to efficiently exercise their mining operations orientation and control powers and promote development of infrastructure at the local and regional levels. It would in addition ensure fair allocation of minerals income to local communities, and to the Member States in enabling the promotion of a sustainable development policy and promote national and ECOWAS citizens' businesses. It is also aimed at protecting the environment in all its aspects, during pre-mining; mining operations; closing and post-closure periods by mitigating to the maximum extent the negative impacts, in line with international best practices. The Directive aimed at ensuring transparency in operation and in the results of the mining activities as well as free access to information and its free publication and promote a participative process in mining policy formulation and implementation by consultation of the local mining communities and civil society organisations; promote human rights as related to mining operations and gender empowerment. Other members of the Coalition include; Centre for Labour Rights (CLR); Foodfirst Information Action Network (FIAN) and Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC). 28 May 09

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Source: GNA
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