Expectations from mining investment are different or the communities, the government and the investor. Similarly, the benefits and costs also differ for the various interest groups.
However, the rationale behind mining investment supported by international funding agencies is to give investors access to the resources of developing countries with the stated objective of reducing poverty.
According to available statistics, mineral revenues in Ghana account for 35% of foreign exchange earnings and contribute about 6% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is estimated that, the well-organized mining companies employ close to 20,000 people, which represent 1% of the labour force.
Also, it is estimated that, revenues to government in the form taxes, fees, royalties, have being over US$ 1.0 billion over the past decade.
Newmont Ghana Ahafo Mines alone had estimated that their investment would contribute US$ 300 million in 20 years to the economy.
Notwithstanding, all the seemingly pleasant news, the Private Enterprise Foundation (PEF) has estimated that, corporate bodies including the mining companies spend only 1% of profit after tax on corporate social responsibility (CSR).
It is evident that, and quite justifiable sometimes for concerned stakeholders, affected communities tend to always demand for further economic and social protection and empowerment from the mining companies.
According to the WACAM, a non-governmental organization focused on responsible mining advocacy; “the World Bank and government have developed a regulatory framework for mining investors that support mining operations and ensure maximum benefits to investing companies. The communities however, do not have such protection under the law when it comes to mining. The general weak environmental standards encourage investors to destroy the environment without restraint and in the process, the communities and host countries suffer negative consequences of mining.”
The advent of environmental laws and monitoring in Ghana
Mining and industrial development as well as globalization has raised the spectre of destruction of the environment and threat of the dumping of toxic waste in developing countries.
The government of Ghana recognizing the need to protect of the environment as a human right issue guaranteed this in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana. More so, to deal with the threat of destruction of the environment, Ghana passed the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1994(Act490). Under this Law, no one could engage in a mining activity or the setting up of any industrial undertaking without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approved by the Agency.
EIA is a process of gathering information about how activities that investors plan to undertake would affect the environment and design measures to address or minimize the effects. The EIA is anticipatory; it seeks to predict possible negative impacts and propose solutions to them.
The story of Newmont Ahafo Mines’impact on environmental consciousness
A recent tour to the Newmont Ahafo Mine, in the Brong-Ahafo Region by members of the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG), unraveled the story of the mining giant in Ghana as to its environmental protection and consciousness effort. Many stories might have been told or heard, but, as the saying goes “Seeing is believing” is much mightier and credible to substantiate ‘quibbles from the fables’.
After hours of field/site tour and briefings; my personal conclusion was that, Newmont Ahafo mines adheres to the highest standards of national and internationally accepted environmental practices. The most exciting aspect was the policies and measures put in place to ensure consistency with its commitment to responsible environmental stewardship, as it strives to ensure that employees and contractors abide by standards that are protective of both human health and the environment.
Certification ISO 14001
MrAgbeko Kwame Azumah, Communications Manager at Ahafo Mine in his briefing affirmed that, the Ahafo mines was re-certified for ISO 14001 in June 2013 for improved performance and showing leadership in responsible environmental stewardship. It has been ISO14001 certified since 2010.
ISO 14001 is a benchmark for which top international companies are assessed to ensure adherence to the highest environmental standards.
Monitoring and Compliance
Again, another observation was that, the Ahafo Mine adheres to almost all legal requirements, environmental standards, policies and procedures. It was evident that, the company works closely with government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and WRC to develop, implement and audit its environmental programmes.
Water Storage Facility
There are mechanisms in place that monitor and report on water and air quality, noise and blast levels.
The Ahafo Water Storage Facility (WSF), a fresh water dam built to provide supplementary fresh water for the mine’s processing plant, is closely monitored to ensure the water quality and level is compliant with the EPA’s approved standards. In addition, Ahafo’s environmental laboratory provides on-site laboratory analyses and environmental data evaluation. This is done in collaboration with regulators, consultants and researchers on various projects, including ecological studies of the WSF and noise impact studies.
This collaboration with these bodies was essential to ensure fulfillment of the regulatory obligations and implementation of environmental best practices.
To ensure the safety and free movement of people around the WSF, the company has erected warning signs and also conducts regular patrols and community education.
Aside this, the Mine also operates an Integrated Waste Management Facility that manages all hazardous waste streams in an environmentally responsible manner.
Environmental Control Dams (ECDs)
The ECDs are sediment control structures that have been constructed downstream of the operation to impound turbid run-off water and allow the sediment to settle before release into the environment. This helps minimize sediment flow into streams and prevent flooding. To ensure the safety and free movement of people around the ECDs, the company have erected warning signs and also conduct regular patrols and community education.
Counter Current Decantation Circuit (CCDs)
The Counter Current Decantation Circuit is used to dilute the standard levels within the process waste before it is pumped into the tailings dam. This ensures that the level of active cyanide at the tailings dam is very low and within approved regulatory limits.
According to the company’s Communications Manager, the Ahafo Mine is also certified under the International Cyanide Management Code. Subscription to the code is voluntary and represents best practice in cyanide management.
From the briefing and visitation of some reclaimed lands at the Mine which can be called a forest again gave a clear indication that, reclamation is an essential part of the company’s operations.
“We conduct reclamation concurrently during operations and also after closure of the mine. Our aim is to rehabilitate the environment to the benefit of local communities long after mining ends,” MrAgbeko Kwame Azumah told the journalists.
Ahafo’s concurrent reclamation began in 2009. Both native and exotic tree species have been planted and more than 22 hectares had been reclaimed as of the end of 2012.
Its reclamation and mine engineering teams collaborate on long-term planning for revegetation programs, as well as weed and soil control.
My earlier conclusion was grounded on personal experiences having toured three different Mines of different companies in the country. Also, views of other colleagues’ journalists who were part of the tour who have also had personal experiences and fair view of other mines in the country, were that, Newmont Ghana has indeed distinguished itself par excellence in environmental consciousness.
Source: Adnan Adams Mohammed