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13.10.2005 General News

Mining communities cry foul about new mining bill

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Accra, Oct. 13, GNA - Resource persons and participants from mining communities attending a two-day national conference in Accra on the mineral and mining bill on Thursday bemoaned the "undemocratic process" of the bill and alleged government intention to pass it under a certificate of emergency.

They said the bill, besides its failure to attract broad consultation, especially from people living in mining communities, provided very little protection for affected communities. It treats as tangential, issues such as human rights, environmental protection and sustainable livelihoods.

Welcoming the over 70 participants on Thursday at the conference, Dr Yao Graham, Coordinator of the Third World Network-Africa, said the undemocratic and unacceptable approach to the revision of the mining code was a failure of the executive.

"Before Parliament went on break some three months ago the bill had already reached the floor of Parliament with the government eager to push it through so as to make the mining companies happy," he said. However, Dr Graham said, mercifully that did not happen.

According to him the privileged position of the mining industry and "government bending over backwards to dance to the tune of mining companies" was a sad continuation of what existed during the colonial era.

Mr Graham said after 20 years of experience of the mining sector in the country, Ghanaians were entitled to ask elementary questions such as what the actual impacts, costs, and benefits of the mining boom had been for the people, national economy and those who lived near the mines and on the environment.

"We are entitled to assume that within the obvious logic of developing more and more accountable democratic political culture, government will see its first responsibility being owed to its citizens."

Sharing some experiences from the mining communities, Mr. Eric Addae representing the communities, said it was an undeniable fact that communities had and continue to have problems with mining activities and therefore, their direct experiences in the formulation of the law as well as multiplicity of interests were important. Mr. Addae said contrary to popular perceptions, mining had neither reduced poverty and improved equity in the society, especially in the communities nor yielded the desired balance between profitability from investments and sustainable development.

Mr J. A. Osei from Tarkwa expressed worry over the issue and asked why cocoa, a major foreign exchange commodity should be destroyed for expatriate companies to mine minerals.

"Surface mining came to kill us and is killing us still. They come to Ghana to mine our resources and take away 95 per cent of the income and leave just five per cent for us," he said.

The new mineral and mining bill when passed in to law would replace Mining Law PNDC 153. 13 Oct. 05