The Associate Executive Director of Wacam, Mrs. Hannah Owusu Koranteng has stated that, mining laws in Ghana only promote irresponsible mining practices. “For example, if the Appiatse accident had occurred in the countries of origin of the mining companies, I don’t think that the companies will be treated with kid gloves as has happened in Ghana”.
She made this known during an opening ceremony to mark a Two Days Forum on Responsible Mining, organized by Wacam and held at La Palm Royal in Accra on the theme “Achieving the Responsible Mining Goals: a Reality or a Mirage?”.
Mrs. Koranteng revealed that, mining laws in Ghana and its implementation are so weak that, they have become a good example of a situation where the poor farmers are subsiding the business of companies from rich countries through externalisation of cost to society.
Many factors according to Mrs. Hannah Owusu Koranteng, has contributed to the transformation of “Galamsey” from an artisanal activity to a mechanised operation saying, many communities such as Kenyase in the early 2000 used to be areas of intensive farming until mining companies located in the area.
“Mining operations in Kenyase area led to the loss of farm lands associated with the payment of compensation which did not restore the livelihoods of the affected farmers”.
She averred that, the Galamsey which used to be ” Pick Axe and shovel” operations has now transformed into large scale mining operations associated with the use of chemicals like cyanide and largely under the control of foreigners from all walks of life”.
Mrs. Owusu Koranteng however said, it is becoming difficult to manage the problems of the mining sector all because of weak laws, weak regulation, the power of the mining lobby, perceived corruption and the network of powerful people behind the mining operations (both large scale and galamsey operations).
Mining nagatively she noted, affected important sectors of the economy such as agriculture which had provided economic sustenance for majority of the people in Ghana adding that, many children of cocoa farmers got educated from the revenues they got from agriculture.
The mining companies according to Mrs. Hannah Owusu Koranteng, have used their economic and lobbying power to control compensation negotiations with vulnerable farmers, resulting in the payment of compensation that do not reflect the long-term benefits of farming to people affected by the operations of the multinational mining companies.
“Surface mining operations had taken place in protected forests like Kubi Forest Reserves and in Ajenua Brpo forest reserve that serve as the source of many rivers and contain plants that are new to science”.
She said, mining companies have established mine pits at the headwaters of important rivers all over the country.
“Beyond the nagative economic, environmental and health consequences of surface mining operations, mining companies are treated as ‘Pampered’ entities with tax incentives, when companies that do not cause such social and environmental harm to society do not enjoy such incentives”.
The holder of a mineral right she stated, may be granted the exemption from payment of customs import duty in respect of plant, machinery, equipment and accessories imported specifically and exclusively for the mineral operations.
The strength of a law to hold a polluting mining company to responsible operational behaviour Mrs. Koranteng pointed out, lies in the strength of the law to hold multinational mining companies to responsible corporate behaviour.
“Unfortunately, the Minerals and Mining Act of Ghana does not have strong provisions to hold mining companies to infractions of the Minerals and Mining Act”.
She said, the only way to hold mining companies to responsible corporate behaviour is to develop strong mining laws.
“We need strong mining laws to support communities’ right to hold mining companies to the payment of huge fines as clean-up costs in situations of cyanide pollution in addition to compensations to affected communities for the pollution of their rivers”.
Meanwhile, Wacam started raising concerns about the social, environmental, economic and health implications of increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the mining sector in the late 1990s when Ghana used very weak and generous mining laws to attract foreign multinational business to the mining sector, and that marked the beginning of the third gold rush described sometimes as the Third Jungle boom.