From Samuel Duodu, Sunyani
The Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, Mr Ignatius Baffour-Awuah, has urged Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL), operators of the Ahafo Mine, to take environmental issues seriously so that the people affected by its activities could farm in areas where mining has ceased.
He said the Regional Co-ordinating Council (RCC) would not like to see a situation where activities of the company would degrade the environment to the extent of depriving the communities of their means of livelihood and other economic activities and also bring health hazards to them.
“I will therefore urge the company to strengthen its environment programmes to make life meaningful to the people in the communities affected by mining”, he stressed.
Mr Baffour-Awuah said this at the inauguration of the 2008 Newmont/Community Crop Rates Review Committee (CRRC) in Sunyani, the regional capital.
The committee made up of NGGL, representatives of farmers and communities, regulatory agencies and non-governmental organisations is to review, negotiate and establish agreement for crop compensation rates in a transparent manner that would be acceptable to all parties. NGGL and its stakeholders have had three successful rates review exercises since 2004.
The inaugural ceremony preceded a training workshop aimed at building the negotiation skills of farmers and community representatives who are members of the review committee.
Mr Baffour-Awuah observed that destruction of the environment by some mining companies had led to civil strife and the disruption of their operations in some parts of the country, saying ‘we do not want such disturbance here’.
The Regional Minister noted that most of the company’s concessions were farmlands on which various cash and food crops were cultivated by the local people and therefore expressed the hope that the company would take the necessary steps to compensate all farmers whose farms would be affected by mining.
Mr Baffour-Awuah entreated the negotiation team to let the current micro-economic trend in the country to reflect in the negotiation.
The Director, Monitoring and Evaluation, Ghana Minerals Commission, Mr Amponsah Tawiah, urged farmers to desist from speculative farming, since often land designated for mining by mining companies ended up not being used which made them run into huge debts.
He added that with the coming into force of act 703, the Minerals and Mining act of 2006, due recognition is given to land without crops on it to make it a candidate for compensation, saying it would therefore be out of place for community members to quickly rush to plant in areas which they were aware had been designated for farming.
Mr Tawiah, however, stated that in this era of Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), “I will humbly plead with both the Management of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited and the Crop Rates Review Committee to cause the publication of the figures arrived at and the basis for public consumption. By so doing, there will be peace wherever the company intends to commence mining activity”.
Mr Randy Barnes, the External Affairs Manager of NGGL, for his part, stated the company would continue to engage all stakeholders to promote mutual understanding and harmony at all times.
Mr Ernest Owusu Poku, a former Inspector General of Police (IGP) who chaired the function urged all to approach the negotiations with good sense so that nobody loses at the end of the review exercise, and added that should be a win-win affair.