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14.06.2004 Regional News

Prosecute illegal sand and gravel winners - Principal

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Accra, June 14, GNA - Professor Daniel Mireku-Gyimah, Principal of the Western University College, on Thursday drew attention to the serious illegal damage sand and gravel winning was causing the environment and said people engaged in the act should be prosecuted.

He described the sand and gravel winning rather as mining stating that the activity had reached alarming levels in Amasaman and Dodowa, both in the Greater Accra Region, and at the Asakai Beach, in the Western Region.

Professor Mireku-Gyimah was delivering a lecture on: "Mining and the Environment: the Economic Controversy" as part of the 76th Annual General Meeting of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, in Accra. The wider theme for the Meeting was: "Mining a Catalyst for National Development." The lecture went alongside an exhibition of mining activities.

Professor Mireku-Gyimah's lecture, full of anecdotes, compared mining to the Akan mythical Santrofie bird, which he said brought treasure as well as troubles to anyone who trapped it home.

The Don acknowledged the contributions of the mining industry to the national economy, in terms of foreign exchange generation, and said the industry employed about 280,000 Ghanaians directly and indirectly. It also contributes more than 35 per cent of the gross foreign exchange earnings, and about 10 per cent of the total internal revenue of the country, and as well produce raw materials for local industries and social benefits like schools, clinics, and other support services to universities and hospitals.

The negative environmental impacts of mining are vegetation and land degradation, air pollution and noise generation, water pollution and social problems with negative attendant repercussions that called for extra national budgetary allocation to rectify.

Professor Mireku-Gyimah mentioned a number of legislative instruments including the Minerals and Mining Law, PNDC Law 153, Deed of Prospecting, Ghana's Mining and Environmental Guidelines, 1994, the Environmental Assessment Regulations 1999, the Deeds of Mining Leas and the Small Scale Mining Law, PNDC Law 218.

He said the Minerals Commission, the Mines Department and the Environmental Protection Agency were the main institutions responsible for the enforcement of the law on the environment, and they were empowered to stop mining activities that did not comply with the laid down regulations.

Professor Mireku-Gyimah said 60 per cent of the mineral deposits were not mined yet adding mining activity would go up as knowledge, skill and technology improved and markets were found for the untapped minerals. He acknowledged the presence of petroleum deposits in the Volta Basin, but said the deposits were not much enough to exploit commercially. Also, to sink one well to test the viability of the commercial exploitation would cost not less than five million dollars.

Professor Mireku-Gyimah said workers in areas where noise levels were above permitted limits should protect their health by using earplugs and muffs, and added that blast vibration could be reduced to harmless levels using well-designed control blasting.

He spoke on a number of ways to reduce water pollution that included recycling, detoxification of effluents before they entered the natural drainage, and monitoring of ground water, to test their acidity levels and other contaminants.

Professor Mireku-Gyimah called for the payment of realistic monetary values for lands affected by mining, interest free loans to help farmers cultivate their farms again or enter into other businesses.

"If we employ correct mining methods and processing techniques and put in place measures to sustain the environment, then certainly, we can prevent the effects of environmental damage and enjoy the economic benefits peacefully", he said.

In an open forum, Ms Joyce Rosalind Aryee, Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber, said it was in the interest of mining companies to adhere to mining laws and their corporate responsibilities to be accepted both locally and internationally.

Professor Chris Gordon, Dean of International Programmes, University of Ghana, chaired the lecture.

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