The Friends of the Nation (FON), an environment- centred advocacy group, has sensitised community leaders and key institutions in the Western Region on the extractive laws and human rights to enable them to assert those rights to improve their social lives and ensure environmental safety.
The Extractive Sector Coordinator, FON, Mr Solomon Kusi, said sustainable mining was one which met the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations, and that mining companies had the responsibility to limit the environmental impact on their communities.
He said Ghana was a party to many conventions and protocols aimed at improving the human rights development of all Ghanaians.
Mr Kwadwo Opoku-Mensah, a Principal Programme Officer, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who spoke on environmental impact assessment and avenues for community participation, assured that the Agency would make sure that project proponents and the extractive industry went by the laws to safeguard the community and the environment.
He cautioned industries to work according to the rules of engagement to avoid punitive sanctions, which included closure.
“If we find that, instead of a filling station, you are also putting up a hotel at the site, we will sanction you the project proponent. We shut down Adamus Resources for not doing the right thing,” he said.
“We are doing our part, but if there are isolated issues let’s discuss, we will investigate and ensure punitive measures are taken to ensure the environment is protected.”
Mr Opoku-Mensah argued that knowledge on baselines, scoping, public hearings, and environmental permitting was a key guiding principle for effective community participation within the governance space.
Touching on Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process, he said, it included project proponents, interested and affected persons, regulators, and competent authorities and that an EIA must be obtained before the commencement of a project, after submission of relevant documents such as the environment management plan.
Sectors considered for EIA, he said, included manufacturing, energy, tourism, agriculture and forestry, aquaculture, general construction, infrastructure, health, mining, oil and gas.
The law looked at guidelines on precautionary, preventive and polluter pays approaches.
“The EIA is a tool to balance diverging interests, preserve, protect the environment, and grow the economy. It’s about sound decision making and sustainable development activities”.
Mr Opoku-Mensah said the EIA process had significantly influenced the design and implementation of major projects in Ghana and continued to be an integral part of decision-making and participation among regulatory agencies, financial institutions and donors.