09.10.2006 Regional News

Two-day Environmental and Community Relations Conference opens at Tarkwa

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Mr Kwasi Blay, Deputy Western Regional Minister has called on management of mining companies to adopt measures that would reduce spillage of cyanide and destruction of farmlands and settlements within their mining concessions.

He said these problems could be avoided when mining companies operated within the mining law to ensure environmental safety.

Mr Blay made the call when addressing the opening session of a two-day Environmental and Community Relations Conference and Exhibition organised by the Ghana Chamber of Mines (GCM) for mining companies at Nsuta-Wassa.

It was under the theme "The environmental impact of Mining in Local Communities."

Mr Blay asked mining companies to observe sound technical and engineering principles and practices by using modern, appropriate machinery and operational methods that would protect the environment.

He appealed to the GCM, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other institutions mandated to supervise activities of mining companies to ensure that they complied with the terms of their operations.

Mr Blay said operations of mining companies must be explained to the public regularly to promote peaceful co-existence, while the mining companies employed people within their concessions to minimise tension and also improve the living standards of the people.

Miss Rita T. Iddi, Deputy Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines said the Ministry and Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning had presented a draft bill to Cabinet to establish the Mineral Development Fund (MDF) Act to give legislative backing to the fund set up in 1992.

She suggested that sub-contracting of small and medium scale support services could create employment to local inhabitants who qualified for such positions.

Ms Iddi said mining companies must create a serene atmosphere to enable them and the communities benefit mutually without resorting to violence and other negative acts.

Miss Joyce R. Aryee, Chief Executive Officer of GCM said in the past several mining companies left several un-reclaimed lands while most of the inhabitants had no alternative livelihood projects.

She said to reverse the trend, the GCM had tasked mining companies to recognise, promote and pursue a fair balance between social equity, environmental conservation and economic development.

Ms Aryee said to reduce social conflicts; the local inhabitants must be involved while their cultures and traditions must be respected.

She said out of the total forest cover of 7,306 square kilometres in the Western region, the mining areas of Tarkwa and Bibiani had 1,036.6 square kilometres, accounting for only 14 per cent of the total forest cover of the region.

Ms Aryee said the total mining lease for the region was 1,118.07 square kilometres, representing 15.3 per cent of the total forest cover.

She suggested that the under-utilised training facilities when properly patronised by the youth, could reduce unemployment and enhance development in the region.

Ms Aryee noted that mining companies respected the cultures and traditions of the communities as well as the stakeholders in the mining industry.

Mr Jurgen Eijgendaal, President of GCM said mining companies spent about 174 billion cedis on social responsibilities between 2003 and 2005 and paid 646 billion cedis on royalties within the same period.

He suggested that 30 per cent of funds from the MDF should be channelled to the local communities for infrastructure development and the promotion of small-scale mining to eliminate illegal mining operations.

Mr Eijgendaal pointed out that activities of illegal mining operators were preventing some mining companies from embarking on underground operations.

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