By Claude Nyarko Adams
A two-day forum aimed at promoting responsible mining in the country is underway in Accra.
Organised by WACAM, a mining advocacy organisation, the forum offered various stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the current state of mining and develop concrete steps for the implementation of legal and regulatory reforms to support the responsible mining agenda.
It is on the theme, “Achieving the Responsible Mining Goals: A Reality or Mirage”.
Opening the event yesterday, Mrs Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, Associate Executive Director of WACAM, said despite the importance of mining, activities of mining have created land-based conflicts and impacted negatively on agriculture.
Among them, she said, was that mining companies had used their economic and lobbying power to control compensation negotiations with vulnerable farmers resulting in the payment of compensation that did not reflect the long-term benefits of farming to people affected by the operations of multinational mining companies.
Also, she noted that surface mining operations had taken place in protected forests including Kubi Forest Reserves and in AjenuaBepo Forest Reserve that served as the source of many rivers and contained plants that were new to science.
She stated further that some mining companies had established mine pits at the headwaters of important rivers all over the country.
Beyond the economic and social displacement caused by surface mining operations, MrsOwusu-Koranteng said the use of chemicals for mining had resulted in cyanide spillages and pollution of rivers, thus exposing communities that continuously drink the polluted streams to cancers.
In the face of all the environmental and health consequences of surface mining operations, mining companies were being given tax incentives that could have been channelled to other uses, she added.
The current challenges, she said, had been exacerbated by weak mining laws which made it difficult to sanction defaulting mining companies.
“We would not be able to hold mining companies to responsible mining practices with our existing weak laws which prescribe weak penalties for infractions of the law, including prescribing fines as low as US$5,000.
The only way to hold mining companies to responsible corporate behaviour is to develop strong mining laws,” MrsOwusu-Koranteng stated.
Chief Executive of the Chamber of Mines, MrSulemanuKoney, reiterated the need for more Ghanaian participation in the mining industry.
He explained that it was imperative that Ghanaians, as owners of the mineral resources, invested in the mining sector to accrue the needed benefits.
In this regard, he advocated that the Akwatia Mines, which had been dormant due to lack of investments, be listed on the stock exchange to enable Ghanaiansinvest in it.
He said despite the importance of foreign direct investments in the country, it was critical that Ghanaians own and benefits more from the mineral resources to create wealth.
Mining companies, MrKoney noted, were committed to supporting government’s economic recovery efforts in addition to other obligations to help Ghana’s development.
Mr Francis Opoku, Director of Finance, Ghana National Association of Small Scale Miners (GNASSM), said there was the need for enhanced enforcement to clamp down on illegal mining which had led to the pollution of water bodies and degradation of forest reserves.
Deputy Director in charge of Small Scale Mining, Minerals Commission, Samuel Tika, said the Commission was reviewing some of the mining regulations to strengthen enforcement.