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15.09.2005 Regional News

Mining companies, district assemblies urged to promote development

By GNA

Accra, Sept. 15, GNA - Ms Joyce Aryee, Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, on Thursday attributed the deplorable state of most mining communities to lack of planning and collaboration between district assemblies and mining companies.

She said many mining communities, though well endowed, faced a lot of challenges because the communities expected too much from the companies without tasking their district assemblies to live up to their responsibilities.

Ms Aryee, who was speaking at a day's forum on sustainable development organised by the Chamber in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines, called for support from government and donor agencies towards the developmental needs of the mining communities.

"Whose duty is it to develop a community? The investor, the government or the local authorities?" she asked.

She said if development plans for communities were discussed with all parities concerned in the mining communities, the rate of development would have been faster than what currently prevailed. "Many a time, mining companies undertook projects which they deem were needed by communities in which they operated, whilst the fact still remains that such projects were not priorities for the communities." The forum brought together representatives from government ministries, donor communities, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organisations, district chief executives and traditional leaders, to deliberate on how to speed up development within mining communities and surrounding areas.

It was under the theme: "Meeting the Development Challenges in Mining Areas".

Ms Aryee stressed that it was not the duty of mining companies to plan and execute projects for the communities. Rather, she said, it was the communities that had to plan and seek assistance from the companies in the execution of the projects.

"Mining can be a major catalyst of development if properly integrated into development strategies," she said. Ms Aryee called for the sharing of knowledge, awareness creation and collaboration among communities, district assemblies and investors about the developmental needs of the mining communities. "This involves government, non-governmental organisations, developmental partners, allied agencies and all those concerned with the developmental needs of the country," she said.

Professor Dominic Fobih, Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines, said it was the primary responsibility of every government to ensure improvement in the socio-economic life of its people. "However, in reality this responsibility is shared with industry, corporate organisations and individuals who contribute their quota especially at the community level to ensure that our people get their basic needs," he said.

He said recognising the problems faced by districts that host mining companies, government recycles a portion of the minerals royalties collected by the Internal Revenue Services to such district assemblies to assist in accelerating the pace of development of mining communities.

"We must involve the beneficiary communities in the planning and execution of these programmes in accordance with their priorities so as to satisfy their needs," Prof Fobih told the gathering. "After all, the communities know best their priorities and expectation," he said.

Meanwhile United Nations Conference (UNCTAD) Report made available to Ghana News Agency on Thursday said Ghana earned only 46.7 million dollars out of 893.6 million dollars worth of minerals exported in 2003. "A calculation based on 2003 Government figures of the total value of minerals exports juxtaposed to income (revenue) derived from mineral taxes shows that Ghana earned only about five per cent of the total value of exports", United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Report, made available to the Ghana News Agency, has stated. The Report, "Rethinking the Role of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)", said "gold export over a 15-year period (1990 - 2004) rose threefold, and from about a quarter of total export revenues at the beginning to around 37 per cent at the end, mining accounted for about 11 per cent of total revenues collected by Ghana's Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The Report noted that mining carries environmental and social costs.

Such costs included removal of the vegetation resulting in large scale-erosion; loss of bio-diversity; diversion of watercourses and increased sediment load in rivers; acid mine drainage and surface and underground water contamination due to acidity and dissolved metal content.

"Combined with waste dumps, solid waste and wind-blown dust, these could also result in direct health hazards to populations living close to mines", the Report said.

It said other impacts included the displacement of indigenous communities and subsequent loss of livelihoods and adulteration of local culture, adding: "Some of these impacts could be very long-lasting, thereby creating liabilities to host countries."

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