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02.03.2005 General News

Regulate mining activities ... Government urged

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Accra, March 3, GNA - The Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) on Wednesday called on the Government to speed up efforts to promulgate the Mining Bill to regulate activities of the sector and safeguard the interests of mining communities.

The Association asked Parliament to recognise the weak capacity of mining communities in their engagements with powerful multinational mining companies and to give consideration to concerns including mine legacies, effects of mining on community livelihood, cyanide spillages, compensation, resettlement and human right abuses when it got to discussing the new Mining Law.

Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, Executive Director, WACAM, at a press conference in Accra stated that if the country made weak legislation, the nation would end up realising that the environmental and social costs of mining coupled with mine legacies far outstripped all benefits from the extractive sector.

He noted that while the nation prided itself for attracting investment in the extractive sector, it had paid little attention to the challenge of developing legally binding and enforceable environmental standards to regulate the mining industry.

He said the Association had, therefore, taken upon itself the task of educating affected communities and creating public awareness on the situation in mining communities to effect change.

Mr Owusu-Koranteng said the gross violation of the fundamental human rights of inhabitants of mining towns by mining companies needed urgent redress to prevent further displacement and also preserve natural resources such as water and the forest.

He said the current displacement of most families in various mining towns due to harmful mining practices, that led to cyanide spillages required stringent policies and programmes to resettle the people to prevent conflict.

"The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established with powers to promulgate and enforce standards, but neither a precise standard nor detailed regulation has yet been enacted, though impact assessment are now required and guidelines for mineral operations have been formulated."

He described the provision in the Mineral and Mining Law (PNDC Law 153 of 1986) for environmental protection "as merely an omnibus provision, which does not set precise standards to regulate industrial mining".

Mr Owusu-Koranteng stated that the absence of a clear standard with regard to the allowable distance between a community and the establishment of a mining pit had been the cause of many community conflicts, as residents had to live with all the dangers associated with mining.

Mr Dei Nkrumah, a Member of the Association, cited an incident in which the community had to struggle to stop the Bogoso Gold Limited from working in a pit, which was very close to the community to avoid nuisance and other dangers.

He also condemned media propaganda by mining companies to trivialise the real impact of cyanide spillages into water bodies. "Contrary to what the industry players want us to believe; we refuse to accept that the effects of cyanide spillage are transient." Mr Dei noted that the mining industry had been using media propaganda to avoid taking responsibility for cyanide spillages, which had huge social, environmental and financial implications.

He urged the Government to insist that companies bore the cost of correcting any damage caused through cyanide spillage.

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