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13.03.2009 Business & Finance

NCOM faults EPA on Newmont Akyem Project….Calls for withdrawal of permits

By Daniel Nonor - Ghanaian Chronicle

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which gives clearance to Newmont to mine in the Akyem forest reserve has received yet another backlash from the National Coalition on Mining (NCOM), who are calling for the withdrawal of the permits.

The coalition said they were disappointed with the way the EPA uses environmental assessment to subvert and undermine community concerns and public interest, particularly in the recent cases involving Newmont Ghana Limited and Adamus Resources.

Millicent Gyan-Badu, who spoke on behalf of the coalition in Accra yesterday, recalled that in June last year, the EPA published notice about public hearing on the proposed Akyem Gold Project at New Abirim by Golden Ridge Resources Limited and Newmont Ghana Gold Limited, to which the Coalition raised grave concerns about the socio-economic and ecological consequences of the project, and the EPA pledged to respond but they never did..

She said they were, therefore, very much disappointed to learn that the agency without responding to their concerns went ahead to grant Newmont an environmental permit to mine in the reserve.

She said another instance was a recent public hearing organized by the Agency at Teleku-Bokazo in the Elembele District, Western Region, on a proposed gold mining project belonging to Adamus Resources Limited to which the community raised concerns, leading to the suspension of the hearing and the company tasked to return to the catchments communities for further consultation, but lamented that while the company was in the field, the Agency went ahead to grant an environmental permit.

The coalition further contends that most of the communities lack the capacity to understand the content of the EIA documents, adding that not only are the documents voluminous and technical but they are also often delivered very late, if at all, to the communities. “The situation is compounded by the apparent lack of feedback to the public.”

They are thus demanding a parallel capacity building for local communities in order to enhance their understanding of the EIA process and relevant content of the scoping reports and environmental impact statement reports adding that the Agency has the power and the option to impose a tax deductible levy on the mining companies to fulfill that demand.

The coalition has also argued among others that surface mining in the reserves will have adverse consequences on the social, economic and development of the people.

They have thus called for the withdrawal of the permits which it said will be consistent with the recent position of the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources that his outfit will not allow mining activities in to be carried out in forest in restricted forest reserves.