ECOWAS urged to finalize regional mining code
Aug 22, 2013
US Members of Congress join the chorus in support of community rights in the 
mining industry
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WASHINGTON, DC - International relief and development organization Oxfam America 
called on the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) to swiftly 
finalize a regional mining code that would help protect the basic rights of 
local communities when oil and mining companies want to move in.

The call came as a bipartisan group of ten members of the US Congress sent a 
letter to the ECOWAS leadership and the presidents of member countries to urge 
them to move forward with the development and adoption of the ECOWAS Mining Code 
as expeditiously as possible.
"An ECOWAS mining code is desperately needed to protect the rights of 
communities to express their free, prior and informed consent when facing mining 
companies," said Keith Slack, Oxfam America's global program manager for 
extractive industries. "For the millions of people living near mining sites 
across West Africa - many who struggle to survive on less than $2 a day- the 
resource curse doesn't mean a share of the wealth, it means environmental 
damage, loss of land and human rights abuses."

Revenues from the mining and oil industry form an important part of the 
economies of many West African countries, but too often, poor communities have 
no say in the extraction of resources from their land and receive little 
information about these projects. And instead of this money getting used to 
build roads, schools and hospitals for Africa's people, it in fact often leads 
to human rights abuses, more poverty and powerlessness.

"We are concerned that West Africa's vast mineral wealth has too often been a 
source of conflict, violence and corruption," said the Congressional letter 
signed by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), Karen Bass (D-CA), Eliot Engel 
(D-NY), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Bill Keating (D-MA), Jan 
Schakowsky (D-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and 
David Cicilline (D-RI). "We believe that by creating uniform high standards 
across the region, the ECOWAS Mining Code will make a very significant 
contribution towards ensuring that West Africa's mineral wealth benefits its 
poor populations."

The Congressional letter also urged the leadership of ECOWAS to not only include 
a requirement for companies to seek free, prior, and informed consent prior to 
the beginning of mining operations, but also to disclose the tax and royalty 
payments to countries for the rights to drill or mine. This is consistent with 
Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which requires US and 
foreign companies registered with the United States Securities and Exchange 
Commission to publicly report how much they pay governments for access to their 
oil, gas and minerals.

Transparency in this sector is an un-tapped potential for development," said 
Moussa Ba, Oxfam America's West Africa extractive industries program 
coordinator. "Armed with the knowledge of how much money oil and mining 
companies dole out to their governments, African citizens can claim their rights 
and fight for their own development."

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