Accra, May 16, GNA - Mining companies in the country are destroying the environment with reckless abandon as regulatory agencies established to check their activities look on, Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) said on Monday.
Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, Executive Director of WACAM, said with the current spate of damage caused by mining, there was the need for enforceable environmental standards to hold mining companies accountable.
Speaking at a day's stakeholder workshop on mining in Accra, Mr Owusu-Koranteng said mining companies have been destroying the sources of water supply of some communities, have forcefully evicted some communities, deprived some of their livelihoods and failed to pay adequate compensation or resettle them and generally abused their human rights.
The workshop, organised by WACAM with support from Oxfam America, is discussing the impact of mining on the environment and communities directly affected and would suggest policy direction to curb the menace. He noted that a study conducted by the Economic Commission for Africa on the water situation in African countries mentioned Ghana as one of the most water stressed countries and further stated that it would be difficult for Ghanaians to enjoy fresh water by the year 2015. Mr Owuwu-Koranteng said: "We are being faced with a global water crisis and that serious steps must be taken to avoid ground water pollution through mining, free use of water for mining operations, pollution of streams through cyanide spillage and other mine wastes". The destruction of community water sources by mining companies was widespread in Obuasi and Tarkwa, he said, adding that the most worrying aspect of the problem was the failure of mining regulations, polices and monitoring institutions to adequately address the problems. He, therefore, reiterated the call for policy changes in the environmental laws to incorporate clear standards based on international principles such as "the polluter pays principle", "precautionary and preventive principles" and "free, prior and informed consent of communities in the event of mining".
Mr Owusu-Koranteng said mining issues were critical and should be discussed in frantic and constructive manner adding: "It must be approached in the spirit of openness and transparency. Mr Mamadou Biteye, Senior Programmes Officer in-charge of Oxfam West Africa, said the extraction of minerals in West Africa had increased significantly in recent times but had not stimulated economic development and poverty reduction.
"The growth of mining in many areas has brought with it increased social conflicts, displacement, pollution, which mostly impact directly on poor communities that depended on the land and water resources for livelihood", he said. Mr Biteye noted that the recognition of the rights by the communities, governments and financial institutions could help to ensure that mining works brought a greater benefits to the local people and the national economy to reduce its impact.
Miss Joyce Aryee, Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Chamber of Mines, acknowledged that mining posed a serious threat to the environment and the local communities but said it was possible to mine without unnecessarily causing destruction. She gave the assurance that the Government would partner with all stakeholders in the industry to work out modalities that would find a lasting solution to the problem.
"Although we might stick to varied positions and seek to maintain the dignity of our works, we must not get to the extreme but endeavour to converge at a point to find the way forward," she said. 16 May 05
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