The Associate Executive Director of WACAM, Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, has stated that mining communities – especially cocoa farming areas – are being completely demolished as a result of weak laws and the lobby power of mining companies, which have emboldened them to bully farmers and local residents.
She stressed that mining companies have used their economic and lobbying power to control compensation negotiations with vulnerable farmers, resulting in the payment of compensation that does not reflect the long-term benefits of farming to people affected by the operations of multinational mining companies.
He added that attempts by stakeholders to address challenges of underdevelopment and destruction to the environment in these mining areas carried out with impunity have failed because of weaknesses in the mining laws such as the Minerals and Mining Act (Act 703); citing weaknesses such as the zero-rated taxes on importation of mining equipment in Section 29 and the puny penalties for people found guilty of offences.
She emphasised that this weakness of the law is an indication of the mining lobby’s strength and inability of the state to hold mining companies responsible for these practices.
“We need to understand that it is becoming difficult to manage problems in the mining sector because of weak laws and regulations, power of the mining lobby, perceived corruption, and the network of powerful people behind mining operations – both large-scale and galamsey,” she said.
According to the WACAM, a mining sector civil society organisation (CSO), the introduction of mining to certain areas in the country has led to a structural change in the economic activities of people from farming to mining – which has attracted many people to the area to undertake ‘galamsey’ operations.
Madam Owusu-Koranteng also mentioned that mining companies enjoy tax incentives which far exceed the revenue they make for the state.
In view of this, she is calling for the conduct of an environmental impact analysis on the damage or harm caused by mining firms to the environment in extracting every ounce of gold.
WACAM is of the view that beyond the economic and social displacement caused by surface mining operations, mining has been associated with cyanide spillage and pollution of rivers – thus exposing communities who continuously drink the polluted streams to cancers, but weak laws and regulations have allowed those culpable to always go free.
The CSO is calling for a strengthening of mining laws, effective regulations; stopping mining in forest reserves and protected areas; declaring a moratorium on the granting of mining leases; undertaking a cost-benefit analysis to factor-in the environmental and social costs of mining; inclusion of the principle of free prior and informed consent (PFIC) in the country’s laws; and respect for the right of mining communities to say “no” to mining.
The Executive Director made these remarks at the Responsible Mining Forum organised by WACAM and held at the La Palm Hotel in Accra on the theme Achieving the Responsible Mining Goals: A Reality or a Mirage?