There is an urgent need for a paradigm shift in the management and exploitation of natural resources, to ensure the country derives optimal but sustainable benefits from the extractives to cushion socioeconomic development, Executive Director of Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining, WACAM, Daniel Owusu-Koranteng has said.
He said in as much as the financial returns from the exploitation of natural resources are important, efforts must be made to safeguard the environment from further destruction in order not to endanger the future of generations unborn, indicating that: “We can’t be oblivious of the devastating impact of mining just because of the fiscals; hence the need for holistic reforms.
“The history of mining in the country is not a pleasant story, and it should be a wake-up call to all and sundry. The unsustainable mining practices and associated negative impacts on the environment and society at large are perfect case studies to guide us in future exploitation of natural resources, especially the oil and gas industry,” he stressed.
Mr. Owusu-Koranteng made these remarks during the 6th annual conference of WACAM held at Abankro near Ejisu in the Ashanti Region. The conference attracted scores of relevant stakeholders in the extractive industry and also coincided with the 23rd anniversary of WACAM.
On her part, Mrs. Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, Associate Executive Director of WACAM, decried what she described as ‘lapses’ in the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006, Act 703; explaining that gaps in the laws have created the leeway for some actors in the mining space to cause destruction to the environment and shortchange the country in management of minerals revenue, and advocated an amendment to correct the wrongs.
She observed that: “The weaknesses of the Act have helped mining companies to externalise the social and environmental cost of their operations to the mining communities and which had been the cause of problems in such host communities. The Act contains provisions which had promoted pollution of rivers, destruction of the environment and encouraged companies to repatriate very high levels of revenue to their home countries – thus preventing our country from reaping financial benefits from our natural capital for development.
“Mining companies undertake corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects which are palliative compensation to appease the affected communities. The cost of the CSR projects generally helps the companies to reduce their tax obligations; and the tax rebates could be significant in situations where we do not have third party verification of the cost components for corporate CSR. In addition, the companies use CSR projects relating to environmental pollution such as cyanide spillages as image-enhancing PR tools.”
Commenting on the ongoing exploration of the Voltaian Basin, Mrs. Owusu-Koranteng expressed concern about the manner in which the state and its agencies have not ensured ‘respect’ for all protocols of engagement with the affected communities – such as seeking their consent to undertake onshore oil exploration in the Nkoranza enclave of the Bono East Region, which serves as an important food basket for the country.
“When corporate bodies rely on their corporate strength to ignore affected communities to undertake projects with far-reaching negative consequences on the people who live in the area, the result is protracted conflicts,” she stated.
Touching on the conference’s theme, ‘Celebrating WACAM’s mining advocacy achievements: the role of mining communities’, Dr. Emmanuel Tenkorang, Dean-School for Development Studies, University of Cape Coast, urged mining host communities to show a keen interest in every aspect of extractive developments in their areas to promote sustainable mining.
He said their livelihoods and very survival depend on the natural recourses; and besides, “they bear the brunt of the environmental, social and security consequences of mining, but they benefit the least from the taxes and employment from resources”.