The week of action, running through 5 June, marks the genesis of a new campaign in West Africa, called "Where is my gold?" The campaign is designed to encourage governments to change laws to comply with a new code of conduct in order to get all the countries in West Africa to recognize community rights and the need for transparent accounting of mining revenues.
West African countries produce millions of ounces of gold each year, but the region is one of the poorest in the world. Provisions set forth in a directive issued by the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) create a basis for helping communities ensure that mining revenues will be used in ways that will reduce poverty, and that they enjoy some of the benefits of wealth produced by mining—instead of simply enduring the costs in terms of pollution, and loss of farm lands. Uniform standards across the region will help prevent destructive competition for foreign investment that force governments to relax environmental and financial standards.
Richard Ellimah, from Obuasi, Ghana, says the new mining directive is "probably the most audacious attempt by the sub regional body to address concerns of mining-affected communities... We are looking forward to using the directive to demand respect for human rights, and freedom of information."
Campaign activities during the week of action will take place in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Nigeria, and Mali, and will include debates and information workshops to teach people in communities affected by mining about the principles in the ECOWAS mining directive. Top among those principles is free, prior, and informed consent, which will give people the right to say whether—and under what terms—mining can be carried out in their community. Civil society organizations will reach out to the press, holding information workshops for the media and interested environmental and social organizations. Organizations also plan to contact their legislatures and mining ministries to ask them to change their regulations to comply with the ECOWAS directive on mining.
- Oxfam Intermon and a coalition of civil society organizations called Min'Alert held a campaign event in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, which was attended by the government's economics and finance minister as well as more than 20 journalists, who brought the concerns of the campaign to numerous press articles and a television program seen across the country.
- In Ghana, the human rights and environmental organization WACAM held a workshop on May 28th that included 64 participants from a wide range of youth, church, legal, and environmental organizations to discuss how the country can revise its 2006 Minerals and Mining Act to comply with the ECOWAS directive.
Six allied organizations held a press conference following the workshop and released a statement calling on the government to revoke permits it granted Newmont Mining of Denver to explore for gold in the Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve. "When government revokes the Environmental Permit to mine in Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve it would demonstrate its preparedness to define forest reserves as 'No Go Zones' for mining," the statement says.
"This campaign is the next phase of the movement towards an increased citizens' participation in public policy making and better governance and regulation in the mining sector in West Africa," says Ibrahima Aidara, Oxfam America's lead expert on extractive industries in West Africa.