Minerals Companies in Ghana Do Not Adhere to FPIC

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Minerals
Minerals

Most companies exploring and producing key battery minerals have public policies that fall short of what is required under international law on respect for community consent, an Oxfam report has revealed.

The report indicated that the battery mineral sector’s approach to Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) was not sufficiently ready to support a just energy transition under current company policies.

Ms Emily Greenspan, Associate Director of Oxfam America, said this during the launch of the report in Accra.

The study examined the publicly available policies of 43 companies across the globe engaged in the exploration and production of five minerals used in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

These minerals comprised cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite and copper.

Underpinning the study, Ms Greenspan indicated, was the principle of FPIC, which required that, indigenous peoples and local communities must be adequately informed about projects that affected their land.

That engagement must be done in a timely manner, free of coercion and manipulation.

Community members should also be given the opportunity to approve or reject a project prior to the commencement of all activities, using a decision-making process they themselves select.

According to the report, some of the companies have no policy commitment at all to FPIC or any other type of community engagement.

Majority of the companies did not disclose their operational guidance, including their implementation processes and evidence of agreements, as well as disclosure of independent audits.

The study shows that far fewer companies have public policy commitments to conduct mine site-level human rights impact assessment.

Among the companies studied, while there was growing recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights, few companies publicly commit to respect the rights based on FPIC.

Most companies also did not take meaningful action to address gender-based violence and discrimination in their operations.
Few companies included in their policies, the respect for human rights and environmental defenders.

Relating the report to Ghana, Ms Greenspan said she hoped that Ghanaians could use the report to ask critical questions about mining companies operating in the country and encouraged them to adopt stronger policies that would ensure community engagement and community consent.

In a panel discussion on the report during the launch, Mr Benjamin Boakye, Executive Director, Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), said people must start thinking more broadly about what community entailed to find a more comprehensive approach for engagement.

Ms Nafi Chinery, Africa Director, Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), said for communities to engage meaningfully, they must have good understanding of what the national and international legal regimes on mining entailed.

She urged the Minerals Commission, the District Assemblies, and other decentralised agencies to educate community members on the mining laws to promote meaningful engagements.

Mr Kwabena Barning, Chief Technical Officer and Head of Operations, Minerals Income Investment Fund (MIIF), pointed out that in most cases, indigenes tended to be knowledgeable about where mineral resources were located on their lands.

He said it was, therefore, prudent for explorers not to downplay the knowledge of the indigenes but to engage them properly.

Ms Alaka Lugonzo, Extractives Strategist, Oxfam in Kenya, said to address the gender imbalances in community engagements, policy formulators must be intentional in giving women a voice and the opportunity to participate in the mining sector in an equitable and just manner.

Mr Tomas Langa, Executive Coordinator, Environmental Association (AMA), Mozambique, said community members could leverage their shared vision, interests and experiences to become more united to advance their wellbeing with regard to community engagement.

Mr Joseph Otchere Osei, Project Officer, SEND Ghana, urged the government to make the livelihood, health and rights of community members paramount when bringing in investors in the mining sector.

Participants at the launch came from Ghana, Nigeria, Mozambique, South Africa, Kenya, and the United States of America.

They included representatives from Oxfam, civil society organisations, the media and environmental activists.

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