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General News of Thursday, 10 June 2010

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Forestry Commission Gets Nothing For Mining Firm’s Destruction Of Reserves

By Solomon Davids
For all the destruction caused and being caused to our forest reserves by mining firms, the Forestry Commission, the body charged with the protection and restoration of our forests, receives nothing in return.
Sources at the Forestry Commission have disclosed that in most of the cases, the Commission does not even take active part in the decision to release the said reserves to ex-patriate mining companies, whose sole aim is to exploit our rich mineral resources with impunity.
Newmont Gold Ghana Limited (NGGL) has been given a mining lease to destroy the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve in the Eastern Region. Chirano Gold Limited is mining in the Tano Forest Reserve and Anglogold Ashanti Obuasi had mined in the Kubi Forest Reserve.
These mining firms, besides destroying the ecology of their operational areas, leave behind lots of socio-economic problems for the people to grapple with.
After doing away with the forests that protect the nation’s ecology and by extension human lives, these firms pay absolutely nothing to the Commission to embark on reforestation programmes.
The most disheartening aspect of this rip-off can be seen in the area of Tungya Forests, which are a collaboration between the catchment community and the Commission. Under the Tungya arrangement, members of the community are allocated depleted forest reserves for reforestation and farming. Whilst they plant trees to restore the forests, the community members engage in farming activities within the area to sustain themselves.
Proceeds from the mature trees, which take a couple of decades, are shared on a 90-10% ratio, with the community taking the lion’s share. The agreement is to encourage community participation in afforestation. However, governments over the years have not given any consideration to the communities when issuing mining leases to firms involved in mineral exploration.
The Forestry Commission, our sources say, does not get any compensation for the destruction of such reserves, leaving the participating Tungya Communities with nothing to show for their efforts.
What is rampant in mining areas is rather tactics adopted by the mining firms to coerce or cajole communities to release their food crops on their farm lands for destruction to pave way for mining activities.
All they get is some meagre compensation for their life-time investment. For instance, Newmont Ghana Ltd is currently forcing farmers in its operational areas, especially in the Akyem project area, to accept their prescribed compensation as against what is stipulated in the law. The mining act prescribes the payment of compensation that takes into consideration the perpetual benefits of the farmer or land owner, whose crops or trees would be affected by mining activities.
The strategy adopted by the firms is to tacitly get political approval through the granting of mining lease which they use as a license to do whatsoever they wish.
In the case of Newmont, one of the first things they do in a community is to get a police post or building thereby ‘buying’ the police to act at their command.
Community members who become vocal are arrested to put fear in the others who may try to resist their projects.
Unfortunately, our leaders do not appear to be on the side of the people.
“Get gold humanely if possible, but at all costs get gold;” those were the words of King Ferdinand of Spain to conquistadors in 1511.
Those words still guide ex-patriate miners till date and one is forced to say our action towards the exploitation of our natural forest reserves with impunity has not changed since the first conquistadors came to our shores.