Wacam, a community-based mining advocacy organisation, which is working in the 120 mining affecting communities in Ghana, has stated that it was currently staging its irresponsible mining advocacy campaign to international countries of where the multinational mining companies come from.
According to Wacam, “we have taken the struggle to send our mining advocacy campaign international because we realised that it is now the time for Wacam to raise awareness for the people in those international community to properly know the series of destruction being caused by the multinational mining companies which are operating mining activities in Ghana.”
Mincing no words, the organisation called on the government to continue to place ban on irresponsible mining activities of both the large and the small miners, saying that it was wrong to assume that because the large multinational mining companies were regulated, their activities do not destroy the environment
The Executive Director of Wacam, Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, disclosed this while he was speaking to journalists at a media forum organised by Wacam at the Tomreik Hotel, East Legon in Accra on Friday, December 21, 2018.
The forum which attracted 60 journalists was on the theme: “Celebrating twenty years of Wacam’s mining advocacy in Ghana- Policy Challenges and Prospect.”
Mr Owusu-Koranteng indicated that the scale of regular and irregular (galamsey) menace should be regarded as part of the larger problem of irresponsible mining which has engulfed the nation resulting in the pollution of rivers, destruction of the environment and creating serious social, environmental and economic legacies for mining communities in the country.
According to him, the irresponsible mining activities in the country over the past three decades have brought about detrimental effects on the development of the country.
For this reason, the forum sought to create an opportunity for media personnel and like-minded stakeholders to influence the process of ensuring sanity in the mining sector by making recommendations that would feed into government’s policy action for lasting solutions.
He indicated that the nation opened its doors too wide to attract mining investment through generous incentives to multinational mining companies to undertake surface mining operations without developing strong laws to regulate mining operations.
The result had been loss of livelihood, displacement of about 100,000 landlords, pollution of many rivers, the exacerbation of poverty in mining communities, destruction of forest reserves among others, he said.
He said it was important that journalists broaden the scope of the fight against illegal mining operations to cover the broad spectrum of issues in irresponsible mining.
He said the influx of multinational mining companies was associated with large redundancies in the existing underground mining operations.
Mr Owusu-Koranteng, who doubles as the General Secretary of the Maritime and Dockworkers’ Union, emphasised the need for Ghana to rethink the approach to mining investments in the country and stressed the need for the government to reform the mining laws.
That, he admitted, would help curb and control the various negative effects associated with mining in Ghana.
He noted, “Surface mining everywhere in the world presents risks, especially when monitoring of mining activities is weak.”
According to him, for many years in the history of mining in Ghana, policy direction had been skewed towards maximising benefits to facilitate development.
“Mining for development is not just about tax revenue but about ensuring that mining is carried out in a manner that will conserve nature in line with economic principle of analysing pollution in terms of the effect on rational decision-making within the interaction of irreversibility associated with uncertainty under the precautionary principle,” the Wacam executive director explained.
Mr Owusu-Koranteng added that the policy direction should create opportunity for other land users to have access to clean and healthy environment and ensure quality life of citizens devoid of rights violations.
Working with about 80 mining affected communities, he noted that Wacam has seen the harsh realities of the mining impacts on communities with respect to destruction of communities’ access to water, clean environment and loss of livelihood.
Other negative effects, according to him, included human rights abuses, heavy metals seepages and spillages into the environment, which have translated into health risks.
Consequently, the executive director of Wacam urged all stakeholders to work together as Ghanaians and seek solutions that would enable policy-makers to enrich policy choices.
Mr Owusu-Koranteng observed that mining issues were complex and quite complicated.
“The issue of mining is a hoax. Compensations are hardly paid and community members are left on their own fate.”
“…and the mining laws that we have in Ghana are all promotional laws. They promote mining. We need stronger regulations in the industry,” he charged.
Mr. Owusu-Koranteng described mining as a massive destructive economic activity that does not give Ghana much.
“In 2014, mining gave the country just 0.08% of GDP as against other economic activities,” he remarked.
He said legal mining has very serious negative impacts not just on water bodies but also on people’s livelihoods, health and the environment as a whole.
He believes there was some confusion among people on how to differentiate between illegal mining – popularly known as ‘Galamsey – and legitimate small-scale mining.
“The phenomena of irresponsible and illegal mining are not new; people have perpetuated these over several years. There have been several attempts by different governments to address the challenge. Yet, for diverse reasons, we have not been too successful as a country,” he stressed.
The Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) now known as Wacam started as a small community-based mining advocacy organisation in the Tarkwa mining area and was officially launched at the Fiase Cinema Hall of Tarkwa on 5th September, 1998.
The community mobilisation work which laid the foundation for the development of Wacam begun around 1992 when the third gold rush attracted about eight (8) multinational mining companies to locate in the Wassa West District for surface mining operations.
The launching of Wacam on September 5th, 1998 was to outdoor an organisation that had been founded on the vision of building capacities of host mining communities to protect their rights and harness the collective efforts of mining communities in the Wassa area through organisation, rights education, community empowerment, community-based advocacy and national sensitisation to reform the mining laws and policies to hold multinational mining companies accountable on responsible mining principles.
Story: Freeman KORYEKPOR AWLESU