Chineme Okafor in Abuja
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in West African countries have said they want the harmonised model mining law enunciated by the region’s economic platform – the Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS), to reflect more on safe mining of minerals, equal opportunities for indigenous operators as well as respect and protection of people and environment.
Working on the platform of the West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF), the CSOs also indicated they would want the Act to take into consideration the region’s challenges with climate change, as well as the place of women in the mining sector.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja on the sidelines of the WASCOF’s review of the ECOWAS Mining and Mineral Development Act (EMMDA), the Secretary General of WASCOF, Mr. Komlan Messie, explained that unfair mining frameworks have kept the region poor despite its enormous mineral deposits.
Messie, noted that often, big external mining firms were favoured more than indigenous firms, adding that respect for ownership of lands and peoples’ rights need to be emphasised in the EMMDA.
“West Africa has one of the best reserves of natural resources in the world but citizens have not seen real economic impacts of those mining resources in our countries. West African countries are amongst the poorest in the world and we have one of the best resources, so there is a kind of unbalance in that and it is important to rebalance that and make sure that our governments get the most for domestic resource mobilisation,” said Messie.
He further stated that: “One aspect of that is to have a harmonised mining Act in the region so companies won’t play against countries in the region, in other to have good impacts in the region.”
According to him, safe and illegal mining would be taken into account in the CSOs review of the Act, “because the conditions around mining activities involves women, ownership of the land, government and economic impacts.”
He said the CSOs, “want to raise the standards in safety, environment and peoples’ protection,” in mining operations in the region.
“We want to know how the mining sites are protected after the mining activities: are there harsh products that would hurt citizens? All those are to be taken into account.
“There are other aspects as well, illicit exploitation is one of them; climate change is also there. We have mining and its impacts in economic development and gender issues.
“We have also tax justice in terms of those advantages that are given to big external companies but not necessarily to local companies. We want to have citizens’ views to have fair treatments of all the operators in that sector and they to be treated on equal basis,” Messie added.
Also in his view, Mr. Augustie Niber, an internal consultant to WASCOF on the review, and who works at the Centre for Public Interest Law in Ghana, stated that recommendations from the review would be sent to the ECOWAS Commission to adopt in its amendment of the Act.
Niber said: “We are expecting to make concrete recommendations in the view of civil society and community members and then present to the ECOWAS Commission for inclusion in the amendment for the Act that is being worked on.
“The purpose of the Act is to harmonise all the legal policies in the mining regimes within West Africa, to ensure that community member states can adopt the mining Act and use it appropriately to develop mining laws that will govern the mining sector, and it will be very useful to Nigeria because this particular model Act is going to be the framework upon which each country would be required to model their mining laws.”