Oxfam launches report on how mining companies seek community  approval

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Oxfam, a global organisation working to ensure a sustainable, equitable, and just world, has launched a Report on how mining companies seek consent of community members.

The global report is titled: “Recharging Community Consent: Mining Companies, Battery Minerals, and the Battle to Break from the Past”.

According to the Report, many companies exploring and producing key battery minerals had public policies that fell short of what was required under international law to respect community consent.

The researchers 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.

Speaking at the launch in Accra, Mr Mohammed-Anwar Sadat Adam, Acting Country Director of Oxfam in Ghana, said the study was necessitated by the current climate crises in the world and the need for a just transition.

He said as the world’s attention turned to transition minerals, it was important to ensure that in the energy transition discourse, issues of community rights were not forgotten or compromised.

Ms Emily Greenspan, Associate Director, Oxfam America, presenting the findings of the Report, said the study examined the publicly available policies of 43 companies across the world 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 research, she said, was the principle FPIC.

She explained that, for indigenous peoples, FPIC constituted a right guaranteed under international law to safeguard the protection and realisation of the peoples’ collective autonomy, resilience, and right to self-determination.

Under FPIC, mining companies’ engagement with community members was, therefore, expected to be free from coercion, manipulation, or duress, she said.

The engagement must be before each phase of project development, extending across the full life cycle of a project.

Community members must also be well-informed by ensuring full and timely access to all relevant project information in formats that enabled them to understand project risks and impacts.

Community members must also have the power to give or withhold their consent to a project.

Ms Greenspan indicated that the study analysed the selected mining companies to ascertain how their policies were consistent with the normative basis of FPIC.

The Report shows that some of the companies have no policy commitment at all to FPIC or any other type of community engagement.

Only two companies have clear public commitments to FPIC.

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 also shows that mining companies are increasingly recognising in their public policies, their responsibilities to conduct human rights due diligence.

However, far fewer companies have public policy commitments to conduct mine site-level human rights impact assessment.

The study reveals that most company policies still overlook the gendered impacts of their operations on communities, with most companies not taking meaningful action to address gender-based violence and discrimination in their operations.

Few companies also have respect for the rights of human rights and environmental defenders included in their policies.

The research recommends structural reforms in the mining sector, where indigenous peoples would have the power to control whether and how mining is done on their lands.

All companies must also adopt strong FPIC policies that meet international human rights standards and unequivocally commit them not to proceed with a project if they did not receive community consent.

Companies must have appropriate operational guidance, internal systems, and resources in place.

This will ensure human rights, due diligence, accessible and effective grievance mechanisms, gender responsive FPIC, and protection for human rights defenders.

The Report added that, policy priority must be given to finding and funding solutions to minimise the need for mining raw materials.

This will ensure sustainable, just, equitable, and rights-respecting mining, the Report said.

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