MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Close Down Operations - EPA Orders Bogoso Gold

Published by MAC on 2005-09-29


Close Down Operations - EPA Orders Bogoso Gold

E. Kojo Kwarteng, Graphic Ghana

29th September 2005

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL), a mining company operating in Prestea in the Wassa West District of the Western Region, to stop operations with immediate effect.

The order follows the violation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures and regulations by BGL, a Canadian firm.

The EIA process helps to assess plans to mitigate any adverse impacts resulting from a proposed activity.

Depending on the nature, scope and importance of the project or proposal, the assessment may cover the ecological, economic, cultural, aesthetic, health, safety, social and amenity impacts, with regard to decisions on the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.

The Executive Director of the EPA, Mr Jonathan Allotey, who confirmed this in an interview with the Graphic yesterday, said "the company is not living up to its own commitment".

He said the order was issued about three weeks ago after experts from the agency visited Prestea and assessed complaints about the operations of BGL.

Mr Allotey explained that the order had restricted the operations of the company to certain areas but did not give further details.

He said BGL had been directed to provide environmental mitigation plans for scrutiny.

The Executive Director said BGL would have to furnish the EPA with an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) spelling out details of how it could contain disasters and problems arising from its operations.

Mr Allotey said officials of the EPA and the Parliamentary Select Committee on Environment and Science, were currently on the ground assessing the situation adding that further action would be announced based on information that would be provided by the experts.

The act which established the EPA empowers the Agency to issue a notice, requiring any person responsible for any undertaking which in the opinion of the Agency, has or is likely to have adverse effect on the environment, to submit to it, in respect of the undertaking, an EIS containing such information within a specified period or halt operations.

An EPA source at Tarkwa/Prestea said until the company produced an EIS stating how it would minimise environmental problems in its catchment area, it would not be allowed to operate.

It told the Graphic that the company had, as of Wednesday morning, complied with the order.

The activities of BGL have come under attack from the residents of Prestea, Himan and Dumase and environmental non-governmental organisations, including the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM), fearing that BGL was rendering the entire place and its environs ghost settlements.

Its operations have systematically destroyed important social amenities such as a police station, bungalows, the only filling station in the area, portions of the Prestea Government Hospital and sources of drinking water, as well as buildings and electrical gadgets of residents.

The secretary of the Concerned Citizens of Prestea, Mr Kwesi Blay, told the Graphic in a telephone interview that given the rate of excavation by the mining company, it would soon bring down the only hospital serving about 70,000 people in the area.

A recent tour of Prestea and its surrounding communities revealed that the Staff Club House, which is about five metres away from a bungalow occupied by the accountant of the hospital, had been covered with sand, while other bungalows faced imminent colapse.

The heavy impact of the blasting by BGL had caused cracks in buildings in the area with residents having difficulty in sleeping at night when the company carried out blasting activities.

The Volta River Authority (VRA) sub- station in the area is also under threat.

A spring which serves as a source of drinking water for the people has been covered with mine waste which contains heavy metals.

Members of the Concerned Citizens Association have, for the past two weeks, been demonstrating and carrying placards calling on the authorities to bring BGL to order.

At a meeting with the Parliamentary Select Committee on Environment and Science, which is currently touring the Western Region, on Tuesday, representatives of the communities called for the operations of BGL to be halted otherwise the Prestea town should be relocated because of the environmental problems.


JOINT STATEMENT BY THE WASSA ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNITIES AFFECTED BY MINING (WACAM) AND THE CONCERNED CITIZENS ASSOCIATION OF PRESTEA ON THE SUSPENSION OF MINING OPERATIONS OF BOGOSO GOLD LIMITED

C/o P. O. BOX 558
Tarkwa

3rd October 2005

The Honourable Minister
Ministry of Environment and Science
Accra

Dear Madam,

The Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) and the Concerned Citizens Association of Prestea wish to commend the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for taking a bold step to suspend the mining operations of Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL) in Prestea.

We further commend the Parliamentary sub-committee on Environment and Science for responding to the concerns of the people of Prestea and organising a public meeting with the community on the environmental, social and health implications of the mining operations of Bogoso Gold Limited.

We wish to draw attention to the fact that EPA gave the order for the company to stop its mining operations in Prestea about three weeks ago but the company flouted the order and continued its mining operations until 28th September 2005. The continued struggle and vigilance of the people of Prestea, Himan and Dumase against the mining operations of Bogoso Gold Limited helped in the enforcement of the directives of EPA.

It would be helpful to recall that Bogoso Gold Limited flouted the environmental regulations of the country when it operated new tailings containment without approval from EPA resulting in the cyanide spillage by the company in October 2004, which affected river Aprepre.

Similarly, it took a long struggle of the people of Dumase to stop BGL from operating an active pit so close to the Dumase town that rocks were hurled from the pit to the homes of residents of Dumase. Dumase is facing acute water shortage and the communities on the concession of BGL are facing many problems from the mining operations of BGL including the shooting of a farmer in Dumase.

Whilst commending the suspension of the mining operations of BGL we wish to draw attention to the fact that the operations of BGL in Prestea have left the people with many problems that need to be addressed by Bogoso Gold Limited. The problems include but not limited to the following:

We wish to state that these are important problems that would have to be addressed by Bogoso Gold Limited.

We wish to express the gratitude of the people of Prestea, Himan and Dumase to the media, organisations and patriotic Ghanaians who have supported their legitimate struggle for self-determination.

We recognise that the challenge would be how to sustain the new freedom and we would count on the support of EPA and all Ghanaians in ensuring that the pain and suffering is not inflicted on the people again.

Many mining communities in Ghana face similar or worse problems resulting from the operations of mining companies.

We therefore call on Parliament to be guided by the experience of the Prestea, Himan and Dumase struggles to enact mining laws that would protect mining communities against such ordeals that result from mining operations in settlements.

cc

Hon. Minister
Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines
Accra

The Executive Director
EPA
Accra

The District Chief Executive
Wassa West District
Tarkwa

The Managing Director
Bogoso Gold Limited
Bogoso

SIGNED FOR CONCERNED CITIZENS ASSOCIATION OF PRESTEA

Mr Godfred Ofori ……………………………………...................Chairman
Mr Kwesi Blay ……………………………………………………Secretary
Mr Eric Sherwood…………………………………………………Organising Secretary
Mrs Rose Adjetey………………………………………………….Queen mother of Aketsiwa
Hajia Hajara Sani ………………………………………………….Women’s Organiser
Ms Anita Esi Annan………………………………………………...Member
Miss Mary Ackoon…………………………………………………..Member

SIGNED FOR WASSA COMMUNITIES AFFECTED BY MINING

Mr. J. A. Osei…………………………………………….................Chairperson
Mr. Daniel Owusu-Koranteng………………………………………Executive Director


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