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General News of Monday, 18 May 2015

Source: Public Agenda

LEG to sue EPA over Newmont Ahafo expansion

Livelihood and Environment Ghana (LEG) has threatened to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if it issues an environmental permit for the Newmont Ahafo expansion project.

According to LEG, the People of Ahafo denied Newmont the social license during the EPA public hearing that took place at Kenyasi in April this year.

Social license generally refers to a local community's acceptance or approval of a company's project or ongoing presence in an area. It is increasingly recognized by various stakeholders and communities as a prerequisite to development. It must be secured before a project takes off.

Out of 24 community representatives, including chiefs and Queen mothers who spoke at the programme, only four of them supported the expansion project.

The rest asked the company to fix the numerous environmental, social and human rights problems confronting the project-affected communities such as Dokyikrom, Damso, Yellow Grumakrom, Manu Shed and others before the permit in issue is issued.

LEG is a social, environment and human rights advocacy not-for-profit and non-governmental organization formed in 2004 and operates mainly in Ahafo and Akyem and other extractive affected communities in Ghana.

The Social Licence to Operate (SLO) refers to the level of acceptance or approval by local communities and stakeholders of mining companies and their operations.

The concept has evolved fairly recently from the broader and more established notion of “Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR)” and is based on the idea that mining companies need not only government permission [or permits] but also “social permission” to conduct their business, according to the Fraser Institute.

Increasingly, having an SLO is an essential part of operating within democratic jurisdictions, as without sufficient popular support it is unlikely that agencies from elected governments will willingly grant operational permits or licences.

However, the need for and ultimate success of achieving an SLO relies to a large extent on functioning government and sound institutions. There has been limited scholarly research on the outcomes of SLO to date.

Despite these limitations, many mining companies now consider gaining an SLO as an appropriate business expense that ultimately adds to the bottom line. Consequently, guidelines and initiatives to build and maintain SLOs have been developed both in Canada and internationally.

CSR can be described as a complex structure of different corporate responsibilities, namely, philanthropic, ethical, legal, and economic. The Fraser Institute is a Canadian public policy think tank. It has been described as politically conservative and libertarian. Its stated mission is "to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals."

Friends of the Nation (FoN), a Ghanaian NGO in mining and environment, notes that the international community has long recognised that extractive operations can be a major income earner for developing nations.

However, it has been far from easy to guarantee that developing countries received the revenues due them, free from costly environmental or social degradation, and to ensure that the money was used to improve the lives of the “poorest of the poor” within those nations.

“Communities' voice are virtually stampeded off the radar of engagement with concerns are relegated to the background. The government supra-impose itself as a bonafide representative of the grassroots which is often not the case but just come in to collect revenue for its own agenda but not essentially for the benefit of the host communities,” observes FoN.

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