MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Mining laws are weak - WACAM

Published by MAC on 2005-08-24

Mining laws are weak - WACAM

24 August 2005

Source: GNA

Accra - The Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) on Thursday described the country's mining laws as too weak and unable to protect human lives, biodiversity and property. Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, Executive Director, WACAM, noted that the mining laws had been crafted in a manner that put corporate interest above that of the people, who are sovereign citizens.

He was addressing a press conference in Accra in solidarity with the Prestea Concerned Citizens Association (PCCA), which had made public its frustrations about the activities of the Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL) a subsidiary of Golden Star Resources of Canada.

"The laws make it possible for foreign investors in the area of mining to carry out their activities anywhere to the detriment of the indigenous people," he said.

He said if a strong regulatory framework were not in place, investors would repatriate all their profits and leave the nation with all the problems they would create. The mining companies also repatriated huge profits and asked what was left for the State. He said it was against this background that Prestea and other mining towns deserved better treatment from the mining companies. The Association's members at the press Conference carried placards some which read: "Children of Himan/Presstae and Dumase are dying, due to Bogoso Gold Limited Blasting"; "Prestea/Himan Is Being Mined Today, Accra Will Be Mined Tomorrow"; "Himan, Prestea And Dumase Are Part Of Ghana. Please Save Us" and "CHRAJ Come To Our Aid".

Mr Emmanuel Quarm, Secretary of the Association said members were aware that companies from countries of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had a responsibility to behave in the same way they would have done in their home countries, when they invested outside.

"The OECD guidelines for multinational enterprise enjoin companies like BGL to respect human rights, protect the environment and respect the rights of indigenous communities in countries they operate." However, he said, BGL, a Canadian Company, operated in an "irresponsible manner" they could not have done in Canada, Mr Quarm added.

Professor Attah Biritwum, a member of WACAM, who chaired the function, said gold was a non-renewable resource, once taken from the land. It was this same land that produced food and other resources for the survival of the people of the land.

He therefore called for caution to be exercised in the nation's quest for mining investments.

Mr Boakye-Dankwa Boadi, a supporter of WACAM, described the country's mining laws as "slave laws", saying this was because they favoured foreigners to the detriment of the Ghanaian.

Negative Impact of Mining

Gabby Asumin, Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)

August 30, 2005

The Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) has appealed to the government to halt the illegal operations of the Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL), which is destroying communities such as Prestea, Himan and Dumase or resettle them at a proper location that would not affect their operations.

Speaking at a Press Conference, last Thursday the Executive Director of the association, Mr. Owusu Koranteng accused BGL of destroying every social facility in these communities, including natural bodies such as rivers and reserves.

In his speech, Mr. Koranteng disclosed that the lack of a comprehensive regulatory mining law in the country was the cause of indiscriminate mining by these multinational mining companies who go about their operations with impunity.

Citing examples, Mr. Koranteng disclosed that, " BGL has destroyed six rivers in Dumase and provided the community with a borehole that turns blackish when plantain is put into it."

He recounted that in 2004, BGL spilled cyanide into River Aprepre at Dumase, the source of drinking water for the inhabitants.

However, the company refused the medical liabilities of the inhabitants who were affected by the pollution.

On social facilities, Mr. Koranteng mentioned that Shell, the only petrol station at Prestea, had being mined by BGL. As a result, the whole community depended on Bogoso for their fuel needs.

According to Mr. Koranteng, the force emanating from the blasting of rocks by the BGL had damaged houses, television sets, Video Decks and even traumatized patients at the government Hospital.

He mentioned that, even the basic right of sound sleep had been denied the people of these communities due to the operations of BGL.

The WACAM executive director was of the view that, the appropriate authorities had ignored the problems of Prestea, Himan and Dumase, and any claim of respect for the rights of the poor and disadvantaged in the Ghanaian society, was sheer rhetoric.

The National Collation on Mining (NCOM), last month drew parliament's attention to the flaw in the new Mineral and Mining Bill, which provides that any parcel of land in the country could be given for mining concession, be it national heritage sites or forest reserves.

This weakness in the old mining law, which Mr. Koranteng noted was archaic, was the license with which the BGL was using to completely mine these communities without any regard for human existence.

NCOM criticized the new bill, saying, "Our understanding of the Bill leaves us with significant concerns in regard to all these three issues."

In both its content and level of consultation that has taken place, he said the bill was severely flawed. According to him, "As regards general policy, the drafters offer only the following brief paragraphs in the memorandum," 'The purpose of the Bill is to revise the existing Mineral and Mining Law 1986 (PNDCCL 153) to reflect in our laws, new thinking and development in the mining industry and consolidate it with the enactment on small scale gold Mining'.

The coalition noted that the content of the new Bill was in contrast to the introductory paragraph, which stands as the foundation of the whole Bill.

In his speech, the secretary of the Concerned Citizens of Prestea, Mr. Emmanual Quarm said it was unfortunate that a few people want to divert attention from the problems and hardship, which BGL had inflicted on their communities.

He maintains that, " These people are either unaware of the problems or want to pretend that there are no problems."

In his opinion, Mr. Quarm asserted that the people who want to downplay their problems think the poor don't deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

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