Date: June 1, 2012, 10:24 am


MINING TOWNS WANT TO HAVE A SAY IN LICENSING


A cross-section of communities affected by mining activities are demanding an overhaul of the current mining law to include a proviso that compels the sector minister to seek the permission of future host communities before granting a mining lease.

The communities also propose that a six-month suspension of mining licence or perpetual withdrawal of same should be slapped on mining companies which pollute water bodies, especially through cyanide spillages. Further, they want mining in forest reserves and arable lands to be outlawed.
"I believe that we should have no-go areas for mining companies because the arrival of Newmont has deprived us of our land. Now we have no land for food production so the government must ask Newmont to leave," Monica Asantewaa lamented at Kenyasi Number 2, capital of the Asutifi South District of the Brong Ahafo Region.

Asantewaa was among more than 120 representatives of communities affected by mining who took part in three separate community encounters in Kenyasi Number 2, Obuasi in the Ashanti Region and Tarkwa in the Western Region.

Kenyasi Number 1 and 2 fall within the Ahafo concession of Newmont Gold Ghana Limited (NGGL) whose mother company is based in Denver, United States. On the other hand, Obuasi hosts AngloGold Ashanti while Tarkwa and its environs host firms, including Goldfields Ghana Limited and Golden Star Resources (Bogoso/Prestea) Ltd.

The Accra-based Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL), a rights based non-governmental organisation, organised the encounters from 14th to 16th May, 2012 as part of consultations to gather input for submission to a panel reviewing the current Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703). CEPIL was assisted by Wacam and financially supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.  Act 703 has been under review for the past two years even though it was initially anticipated to be done within six months.

Lawyer Augustine Niber, head of CEPIL, who took participants through the law, explained that under the current legal regime "Every mineral in its natural state in, under or upon land in Ghana, rivers, streams, water-courses throughout the country, the exclusive economic zone and an area covered by the territorial sea or continental shelf is the property of the Republic and is vested in the President in trust for the people of Ghana."  Therefore, the President is vested with authority to acquire any land, or to authorise the occupation and use of any land if such land is required for the development or utilisation of a mineral resource.

To this end, Act 703 states in Section 3 and 4 that all Land in the country may be made the subject of an application for a mineral right; except; a) land which is the subject of an existing mineral right; b)land expressly reserved, by or under this Act or any other enactment from becoming the subject of a mineral right" and "Land declared/reserved by Minister as not subject to application for specific mineral(s).
Gifty Owusu Afriyie from Obuasi complained about surface mining activities which have led to deterioration of land, attributing the degradation of the land to the failure of companies to properly reclaim lands, including backfilling of pits.
"We can't really see any benefits we have received from them so their (companies) operations should be restricted to six years, after which they should be asked to leave because as we speak now, three fingers of plantain sell at GHC2. If they were to take the entire piece of land from us we are literally going to die," Abena Hia stated in Kenyasi Number 2 where participants were uncompromising on their demand for agricultural lands and forest reserves to be made no go areas.

Their insistence on the provisions is informed by Newmont's effort at expanding its mining operations in Ghana. In relation to this, pressure groups Earthworks and Wacam jointly warned in a statement issued in January 2010 that a proposed expansion of the Ahafo mine to the north would displace thousands of people and threaten a forest reserve.
"If built, the proposed Akyem mine would destroy a quarter of the forest in the Ajenjua Bepo Forest Reserve, would displace thousands of people, and would pose risks of cyanide contamination as well," the pair said.

In Tarkwa, participants stressed the need for a revised law to internalise the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as captured in the ECOWAS Directives on Mining which Ghana has ratified and gazetted.  There was general call for a revised law to prescribe sanctions for cyanide spillages as the law in its current form does not.
"The practice has been that when cyanide spillages occur, companies initially deny responsibility. Henceforth, if companies deny being responsible for spillages but investigations prove otherwise, the licenses of such companies should be withdrawn," Alex Owusu Ansah proposed at Kenyasi Number 2.

In January 2011, Wacam accused Newmont, saying: "Newmont Ahafo Mine used this strategy of shifting the blame of the October 2009 cyanide spillage on chemical fishing in the report on the spillage it submitted to the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology titled 'Process Overflow at Newmont Ahafo Mine'."
This was after Newmont was fined GHC7 million (US$ 4.9 million) in January 2010 by the Ghana government for negligently spilling cyanide at its Ahafo gold mine in October 2009, resulting in water contamination and fish kills.

Source: Public Agenda



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