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Business News of Thursday, 28 May 2015

Source: GNA

Mining companies tasked to impact on communities

Mr Mahama Ayariga, Minister of the Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, has urged mining companies in the country to endeavour to impact on the economies of the communities in which they operate.

He noted that although the companies do well by embarking on a lot of Cooperate Social Responsibilities (CSRs), in their areas of operations, they should come out with measures on how they can become long-term development partners.

There is the need for mining companies to adopt CSR projects which have the potential of impacting on the communities for a more sustainable development, and for the total economic development of the community.

Mr Ayariga made the call at the opening of a five-day workshop organized jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Chamber of Mines for Environmental Managers.

It was being attended by officials in the mining sector as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who were directly involved in the issuance of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The main objective of the EIA training seminar was to offer hands on refresher training for the participants to enable them gain knowledge of how to simplify and speed up the permitting process for mining companies which should usually be granted by the EPA.

He cited lack of personnel as one of the challenges facing the EPA which had hindered its ability to conduct effective and timely evaluation processes for staff.

“Perhaps this is one of the reasons accounting for the delay in the discharging of the duties by officials of the EPA,” he said.

He noted that the EPA needed to strengthen its capacity to enable it act expeditiously on their mandate and to avoid unnecessary delays in the issuance of permits.

He urged authorities of both the EPA and the Chamber of Mines to develop a permit application tracking system which would enable both sides to be able to monitor all the processes involved in the issuance of permit to detect when there was delay.

“You can also copy practices in other jurisdictions which has helped to speed up the process of issuing permits and adopt them”, he added.

Mr Johan Ferreira, President, Chamber of Mines, noted that the mining sector was one of the most regulated sectors in the country and it had shown its commitment to the annual environmental performance disclosure dubbed “AKOBEN,” which was organized by the EPA.

“Year on year, we have witnessed improvements by mining companies in the audits and most of us members have also signed on to the International Standard Organisation (ISO 14001) which requires third party validation of their performance,” he added.

He intimated that delayed environmental permitting and its associated challenges had persisted in the mining industry for a number of years, thus affecting on and off site mining related projects.

He said the delay also affected project planning, execution and impacted the raising of investment capital for projects since it created uncertainty regarding cash flow and other project metrics.

“No doubt, these delays affect Ghana’s competitiveness unduly as a mining investment destination,” he added.

He said the organization of the seminar was not to shortcut the process, but rather improve it for efficiency to benefit the companies, the communities and the government as a whole.

Mr Daniel Amlalo, EPA Executive Director, said the mandate of the Agency allowed it to protect the environment with other institutions by augmenting the effort legally or through various procedures.

He noted that potential activities close to national assets had the tendency to affect the fragile ecosystem and national assets such as the Bui Dam, Akossombo Dam and ecological sensitive areas, such as Lake Bosomtwe.