Ghana conference makes major demands for sustainability, human rights
In one of the largest and most comprehensive conferences of its kind held in Africa, 1,700 delegates from mining-affected Ghanaian communities have issued many urgent demands to their government.
NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FORUM OF THE NATIONAL COALITION ON MINING (NCOM) WITH COMMUNITIES HELD OCTOBER 8TH, 2009 AT
AKOTI IN SEFWI-WIASO DISTRICT, WESTERN REGION OF GHANA
We, 1,700 representatives of communities and members of the National Coalition on Mining (NCOM) participating in the second annual national campaign forum call on the government of Ghana to reform existing mining and environment policies and practices in order to optimise the benefit of mining and protect communities and the environment from violence and impunity perpetrated by transnational mining companies as well as state institutions, in particular the police and the military.
We also call on the government to end surface mining in all forest reserves and take immediate measures necessary to protect and improve the remaining vestiges of Ghana's forest cover as part of national obligation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its subsidiary convention the Kyoto Protocol (KP).
The National Coalition on Mining is a grouping of communities affected by mining, non-governmental organisations and individuals engaged in mining sector advocacy. It was established in 2001 in response to growing threat of mining to community livelihood, environmental sustainability, social harmony and national development. Membership now spans all large-scale mining concession areas in Ghana.
Purpose of forum
We recognise that rural communities who are already on the margins of the benefits of state strategy for social and economic development tend to be the worst victims of mining engendered social, environmental and economic problems. The location of mining projects exposes rural communities to the direct and indirect as well as immediate and long-term negative consequences of mining. Yet, experience has shown that they have limited voice in public policy and decision-making in respect of mining projects.
The national campaign forum was thus created and institutionalised in 2006 as a platform for promoting community voice, sharing experiences, and analysis of mining engendered developmental challenges in order to inform public policy choices as well as state and corporate practice towards communities and citizens at large.
Context of forum
Since its creation, the national campaign forum rotates among participating community groups. This year's forum takes place in Akoti in Sefwi Wiawso District in Western Region and at a time negotiations on climate change is on-going. Akoti and surrounding communities host one of the large-scale surface gold mining projects in Ghana.
The development, production and processing of gold by the mining company (Chirano Gold Mine Limited-CGML) generate disastrous impact on the environment, livelihood and fundamental rights of people living in and around the mine and its facilities.
Farmers frequently complain about various human rights abuses, destruction of crops, water pollution, and failure on the part of the company to honour its obligation of paying fair and adequate compensation. There is also complaint of lack of agreement and plan for executing corporate social responsibility projects by the company in the area. Currently, some farmers are in court contesting the failure of the company to pay appropriate compensation.
Akoti today cuts the image of a distressed environment, as its diverse and serene vegetation consistent with local culture and livelihood organisation is under threat from surface mining. Portions of the Surano Forest Reserve in the Sefwi Wiawso District of Western region have been torn apart by gold mining activities through deliberate state policy of opening up forest reserves for surface mining.
Of course, these problems are not peculiar to Akoti and surrounding communities. The problems tell the reality of corporate culture of mining in the Western Region and indeed the whole of Ghana.
The Western region has the largest concentration of mining companies in Ghana. In the context of Africa, Ghana is the second largest producer of gold. The enviable position coupled with the concentration of transnational mining companies in the country has the potential towards national and community development through employment creation, skills and technology transfer, government revenue, foreign exchange earnings, growth of subsidiary industries, and provision of community social and economic infrastructure.
Despite this potential, decades of mining and the recent method of surface mining continue to cause destruction to community livelihood and the environment, displacement of settlements, impoverishment, violent conflicts and human rights violations.
Rural communities, particularly women have been the most affected victims of mining engendered problems. They have had their water resources polluted exposing them to health risks, crops and vegetation destroyed, and access to farmlands disconnected through compulsory acquisition of large tracks of lands that mining companies hardly ever put to full use. In return, mining companies pay pittance as compensation which often comes after months and years of struggles.
Small-scale artisanal mining which offer great potential for rural employment generation and value-addition has almost always been criminalised and vilified as destructive by state policy officials and transnational mining companies who see small scale mining as a threat to their monopoly over mineral rich lands.
To insulate their poor practice, companies either offer promises which they never fulfil or provide corporate social responsibility projects that are inconsistent with the livelihood trajectories of communities.
The expression of dissent by communities to the poor state of mining and the poor handling of their grievances is often met with rapid repressive response from mining companies and state institutions, in particular private security, the police and the military leading to conflicts of different levels of intensities and human rights violations. These problems deepen the already marginalised situation of communities and limit their capacity to climate adaptation and contribution towards national development.
Factors Responsible for lack of developmental impacts
Factors responsible for mining engendered problems and the lack of developmental impacts of mining include inadequate policy and regulation, repressive attitude of state institutions towards communities, and corporate impunity.
Over the years, State strategy towards mining has tended to prioritise the role of foreign direct investment (FDI) and therefore the interest of transnational mining companies over community interest, environmental protection, and national development. The high premium placed on foreign direct investment and foreign transnational mining companies explains why:
• The policy and legal framework for mining provides clear rights, incentives and protection for large-scale transnational mining companies without doing same for small scale artisanal mining and communities.
• The state will deliberately open up forest reserves for surface mining against the principle of natural justice for the environment and international conventions such as the Biological Diversity Convention (BDC), the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) and the UNFCCC which Ghana is signatory.
• The behaviour of state institutions and their poor and repressive attitude towards communities expressing legitimate grievances.
• Corporate impunity in respect of their obligations and responsibilities towards the state and communities.
• The state will apply its pre-eminent domain to compulsorily takeover community lands, water resources and property on behalf of mining companies and turn round to supervise compensation negotiation between mining companies and communities, when the state should be negotiating directly with communities and property owners.
• The perception that transnational mining companies are the only investors and therefore rural farmers who toil on daily basis to eke a living, keep families and support the national economy through cash crop production are not seen as investors especially when their rights come into conflict with the interest of transnational mining companies.
Call for reforms
As a way forward to optimise the benefits of mining and protect communities and the environment we make the following calls:
With regard to mining we call on the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources as a matter of priority:
• Facilitate the development of a long-term national vision for mining beyond the usual focus of foreign direct investment. This vision must be located in an overall national development strategy in which the role of mining is clearly defined.
• Stop surface mining in forest reserve and organise platforms for national debate on the future role of mining and forests in integrated national development.
• Develop regulation for the equitable distribution and utilisation of the Mineral Development Fund.
• Expunge the stability agreement provision in the Minerals and Mining Act 703, 2006 as this only short-circuit mineral revenue to the state.
• Work with Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to develop guidelines for the effective utilisation of mineral royalties in ways that impact positively on local communities.
• Make the conditions of mining leases accessible to communities and build their capacity for understanding and analysis of the conditions.
• Cut down on the list of duty exemptions to transnational mining companies in order to increase government revenue.
• Conduct public discussions on the draft regulation for royalties and compensation, involving communities in particular before they are passed into law.
• Develop guidelines for determining the scale and impact of mineral benefits to communities and the national economy on annual basis.
• Develop the small scale artisanal mining sector as a national strategy for addressing rural unemployment and value-addition.
In relation to the environment, we call on the Minister of Environment Science and Technology to:
• Expunge the confidential clause covering environmental audit reports as this makes it difficult for community level surveillance and monitoring of corporate responsibility towards communities and the environment.
• Make the conditions of environmental permits accessible to communities and build their capacity for understanding and analysis of the conditions.
• Review the environmental impact assessment procedure to make it relevant to communities and improve the governance mechanisms. The period and method of notification, the method of consultation, feedback, and the structure of public hearings particularly need urgent attention if the environmental impact assessment should remain governance and development tool in mining.
• Develop guidelines and standards for the distance between settlements and mine facilities, resettlement scheme, participation, and reclamation of mine pits and degraded lands.
• Lead the development of a national climate policy and principles for enhancing the capacity of communities affected by mining for adaptation and mitigation.
With respect to corporate crime, we call on the Ministers of Lands and Natural Resources, Finance and Economic Planning, Environment, Science and Technology, and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to work together to:
• Enact a national law on corporate behaviour to minimise and eradicate corporate crime in the country. Corporate social responsibility projects, pricing of minerals and metals, depreciation and disposal of assets, transfer pricing, hedging, mergers and acquisition are some of the mechanisms through which transnational corporations including mining companies deprive communities and the state huge sums of revenue.
• Insist on compliance and respect for applicable laws and regulation
• Effective coordination and information exchange among relevant institutions especially among Bank of Ghana, Internal Revenue Service, Customs Excise and Preventive Service, the Free Zone Board, Ghana Investment Promotion Council, Minerals Commission and Environmental Protection Agency.
Respect for human rights
With regard to human rights we call on:
• The Commissioner of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to initiate investigation into the individual complaints submitted to CHRAJ in 2007 by the Coalition. We commend CHRAJ for carrying out investigation into the social and economic rights of mining communities in Ghana and publication of the findings.
• The Attorney General and Minister of Justice to lead implementation of recommendations of the CHRAJ report. The Natural Resources and Environment Governance Project could be a possible source of financial support for implementation of the recommendation, and also to support CHRAJ for investigation into the individual complaints.
• The Minister of Defence to investigate the pattern of alleged human rights abuses involving the military against people living in communities affected by mining and to take appropriate steps to addressing concerns of the victims.
• The Minister of Interior to investigate alleged human rights abuses of communities by the police and to take appropriate steps to addressing concerns of the victims.
• Parliamentarians to raise questions regarding violent and human rights abuses in mining areas.
We express our solidarity with all victims of mining operations in Ghana and reaffirm our commitment to work together and to collaborate with government and other actors for implementation and in bringing an end to mining engendered problems and lack of developmental impacts.
ENDORSED BY REPRESENTATIVES OF THE FOLLOWING COMMUNITIES AND NGO MEMBERS OF NCOM:
1. Bibiani New Town
2. Bibiani Old Town
6. Asempa - Naye
10. Subriri Nkwanta
31. New Abirem
37. Teleku - Bukaaso
42. New Atuabo
ABANTU for Development
Livelihood & Environment Ghana (LEG)
Friends of the Earth Ghana (FOE-G)
The African Challenge
Third Wold Network-Africa (TWN-Af)
Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL)
National Coalition Against Privatisation (NCAP)
Concern Citizens of Himan-Prestea
Sefwi Youth Association
Bibiani Farmers Society
Concern Citizens Group, Teleko-Bukaazo
Concern Citizens of Sefwi-Wiawso
For further information, please contact TWN-Af secretariat of NCOM Tel:+233-21-511189/500419/503669 Email: email@example.com