The Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM), an environmental advocacy organisation, has asked the Government to suspend all mining activities in forest reserves and withdraw the leases of mining companies who conduct their activities in the reserves.
In a resolution adopted at the end of its Fifth National Conference, held in Kumasi, WACAM expressed worry over a statement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that: “Ghana will experience severe water crisis by 2025, if nothing is done to reduce the increasing pollution of water bodies and forest degradation.”
The EPA anticipates that the country’s per capita water availability would be 1,000 cubic metres (m3) per annum, making Ghana a water-stressed country.”
The Conference alleged that the Government had granted mining leases to multinational mining companies to undertake open cast mining in forest reserves.
It claimed that the Newmont Akyem Mine, for instance, had been approved to undertake surface mining operations in the Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve while AngloGold Ashanti had a lease to mine in Kubi Forest.
“There are plans to permit surface mining in Tano Suraw Forest Reserve; Obonsam Bepo Forest Reserve; Atiwa Range Forest Reserve; Fure; Tano and Offin Forest Reserves, which are part of Ghana’s 30 Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas,” WACAM alleged.
The Conference stated that the current Minerals and Mining Act, Act 703, 2006, provided adequate protection for the multinational mining companies but not the surface rights of affected mining communities.
“Conference is of the opinion that the Minerals and Mining Act is too weak to provide effective regulation of the current mining boom,” it said.
“Conference notes further that the Minerals and Mining Act, does not have important provisions such as the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), which would empower host communities to reject or accept a mining project based on the knowledge of the benefits and negative effects of mining on their livelihoods and pollution of the environment among other things.”
The Conference expressed worry that despite the visible environmental challenges of mining, the Minerals and Mining Act did not contain provisions on the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP).
It assured of WACAM’s readiness to share its experiences on a baseline mining study it conducted with stakeholders to ensure the compliance with the mining laws.
It also called on the Government to develop a comprehensive reform of mining regulations in the country with the active participation of NGOs; Faith-Based Organisations; Mining Communities; Trades Union Congress (Ghana); and Traditional Authorities, among other groups.”
The conference was attended by delegates and representatives from Tarkwa, Prestea /Dumasi, Nzema, Kenayse, Donkro-Nkwanta, Obuasi, Mumuadu, Akyem Nkwarteng,; Akyem Adausena and Sheini Zones.
The Conference discussed issues relating to the protection of the social, civil, political, economic and environmental rights of mining communities in relation to national policies, as well as the policies of WACAM that form the basis for its advocacy work.