Feature Article of Friday, 4 January 2013
Columnist: Badu, K.
I must point out with heartfelt, I am not on the side of the opinion formers, who insist that the blame should be put solely at the doorsteps of the Chiefs in the affected areas. Some of the chiefs, of course, must share the blame for looking on somehow unconcerned, and allowing these Chinese to destroy their lands. But, my disagreement stems from the fact that the chiefs do not own the natural resources beneath the land. The chiefs only have power over the lands. It is the government of Ghana who owns the resources, and has therefore charged the Ghana Minerals Commission to oversee the mining activities in the country. In this instance, you would expect the authorities to bring to a halt the illegal activities of foreign intruders, if indeed the Minerals Commission of Ghana has not issued the miners with the necessary documentations that will allow them to undertake such mining.
Interestingly, my checks have revealed serious breaches in the mining concessions. According to credible sources, some Ghanaians are acting as middlemen. They manage to procure the mining concessions and then pass them over to the Chinese miners. This exposition is not a mere exaggeration, it is authentic, and thus Ghana Mineral Commission should not rest on its laurels in investigating the anomalies, if for argument sake, the Commission does not know what is going on.
MINING WITHOUT PERMITS AND WITHIN RESTRICTED AREAS
“the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703) requires any person wanting to engage in any form of mining to obtain the requisite licence from the Minister responsible for Mines”. “Holders of mineral rights and licences are by law required to obtain the necessary approvals and permits from the appropriate quarters:• Environmental Protection Agency; Forestry Commission, where forests are involved; and Water Resources Commission, where water is involved, before they commence operation”. “No Small Scale Mining operations have been or will be permitted within 100 meters of any water body. Any planned or ongoing Small Scale Mining operation in such areas is illegal”. “Notice is hereby given that, anyone found to have contravened any of the provisions of the Minerals and Mining Act 2006 (Act 703) shall be sanctioned and prosecuted in accordance with this Act and the Criminal Procedure Code, 1960 (Act 30)” (MINERALS COMMISSION,2012).
Well, if that is the case, why no one seems to be policing the illegal activities of the Chinese immigrants? Obviously, the small scale mining is capital intensive, and it explains why Ghanaians, who do not have the upfront capital, albeit, manage to secure the mining concessions end up passing such concessions to their Chinese minions. And, the unconcerned Chinese end up violating the laws which govern the small scale mining. So, my question again is: Why is it that Ghana Minerals Commission not keeping a close eye on the illegal activities of the Chinese, many of whom are bent on destroying the environment?
Strange enough, according to the Minerals Commission of Ghana, government’s objective is “to achieve a socially acceptable balance, within this framework, between mining and the physical and human environment and to ensure that internationally accepted standards of health, mine safety and environmental protection are observed by all participants in the mining sector”. “Environmental Regulations on mining is to ensure that mining is carried out in a modern, safe and environmentally sound manner”. “The current environmental and social standards under which economic activities should be conducted in Ghana and the methods by which Government seeks to enforce them are contained in the following documents and instruments: the National Environmental Policy of Ghana, which is complemented by the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1994 (Act 490); Environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999 (L.I. 1652) (‘Environmental Regulations’); the Forestry Commission Act, 1999 (Act 571); Ghana’s Mining and Environmental Guidelines, 1994; Operational Guidelines for Mineral Exploration in Forest Reserves for Selected Companies, 1997; Environmental Guidelines for Mining in Production Forest Reserves in Ghana, 2001; Guidelines for the Preparation of Feasibility study reports, 2009; Mine Closure and Post-closure Policies; Guidelines for Corporate Social Responsibility in Mining Communities; and Compensation Policy and Regulations”.
Fair enough, we have the guidelines, what prevents the enforcement of such rules and regulations? Let us do something about the ‘Chinese menace’ and thereby preventing the seemingly gigantesque environmental catastrophe. We cannot and must not disappoint our children, their children and their grand children!
K. Badu, UK.