ASSEMBLY Members in communities affected by mining in the country have been urged to use the powers conferred on them by the Local Government Act 462 to enact bye-laws for the protection of the environment.
Mr Abdulai Darimani, an Environmental Programme Officer of the Third World Network, Africa (TWN, Africa), a policy research organisation, who made the call, also stressed the need for the introduction of special levies to improve their assemblies’ revenues.
He said such bye-laws for the protection of the environment would help minimise the impact of mining on the communities and help complement the efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which does not have district offices in most of the mining communities.
Mr Darimani was speaking at a two-day capacity building workshop for elected Assembly members in Asutifi and Tano North District Assemblies in the Brong Ahafo Region at Kenyasi.
The workshop was organised by Livelihood and Environment Ghana (LEG), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), in conjunction with TWN, Africa.
Sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the workshop was aimed at equipping Assembly members from the two districts to monitor environmental issues and pass bye-laws on specific uses of assemblies’ share of royalty.
Currently, Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) operates in Kenyasi in the Asutifi District, while exploration and feasibility studies are ongoing in the Tano North District by the same company in the region.
Mr Darimani further entreated Assembly members in mining communities to initiate discussions on guidelines for the utilisation of royalties received by their assemblies from mining companies.
He said the advice had become imperative since it was alleged that such revenue mostly went into the recurrent expenditure instead of the development purposes to help improve the lot of the people in the communities.
Touching on the stabilising clause, a legal provision in the Mining Law (Act 703 of 2006), Mr Darimani said the provision allowed mining companies to pay royalties at a minimum of three per cent over a period in an agreement entered into by the government and the mining companies, which was irreversible until the life-span of the agreement.
He stated that the only way to ensure communities affected by mining could benefit from mining was “to go behind the law to introduce special levies within their mandate to improve their share of revenue received by their assemblies from mining”.
The Executive Director of LEG, Mr Richard Adjei-Poku, said it was a fact that mining activities, especially surface mining, had negative impact on affected communities.
They included the destruction of the environment, displacement of people and their families, social conflicts and human rights violations, destruction of community sources of livelihood with very inadequate compensation and take-over of land and causing severe food security problems and poverty.
He, however, observed that in spite of the aforementioned effects, mining also provided some significant contributions to the national economy, adding that currently, Ghana was the second leading gold producing country in Africa after South Africa and ranked 10th in the world.
Mr Adjei-Poku said the mining sector was consistently the country’s highest gross foreign exchange earner from 1999, explaining that it had contributed about 12 per cent of the country’s total corporate tax earnings, 34 per cent of total exports and 11 to 12 per cent of government revenue.
Besides, Mr Adjei-Poku said, mining employed about 15,000 people in the large scale mining industry and over 500,000 people were also engaged in small-scale mining.
The Communications Manager of NGGL, Mr Stephen Baffoe, stressed the important role mining had played in the development process of communities.
He pledged that Newmont would continue to engage all stakeholders in their areas of operation to ensure that the communities benefited from its activities.
Mr Baffoe revealed that Newmont was a signatory to the international campaigns for transparency in the mining industry and had therefore signed on to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
Mr Baffoe said as much as Assembly members wanted to demand accountability and transparency, they should demonstrate that in their dealings with the people as well.