COMMUNITIES affected by mining have been urged to be abreast of the new Mineral and Mining Law (MML) of the country in order to make claims due them.
The human rights of communities affected by mining have been violated as a result of ignorance of the relevant provisions in the MML and the 1992 Constitution by such communities, and therefore, they could not make claims for any proper compensation and resettlement packages.
The Executive Director of Livelihood Environmental Ghana (LEG), Mr Richard Adjei-Poku, made the call at a day’s sensitisation forum for a cross-section of the public at Ntotroso in the Asutifi District in the Brong Ahafo Region.
LEG is a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) with the objective of advocating the protection of the environment, human rights, community interest and livelihood of men and women, especially vulnerable groups who come into contact with activities of large transnational mining companies.
LED organised the forum to support the recent news conference organised by the Ghana National Coalition on Mining (NCOM), registering its displeasure about the way the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to subvert and undermine community concerns and public interest, particularly in cases involving Newmont Ghana Gold Limited and Adamus Resources.
The forum also formed part of activities marking the national day of action against violence in mining and surface mining in forest reserves.
Some of the issues raised at the forum were on compensation, resettlement and moratorium.
Mr Adjei-Poku, who responded to some of the questions raised by the participants, called on mining companies not to take advantage of the ignorance of the mining law by local communities to exploit them.
He stated that mining companies had the responsibility to pay adequate compensation to people whose lands had been acquired and also resettle them on suitable alternative lands with due regard for their economic well-being, social and cultural values.
Mr Adjei-Poku called on the relevant departments and agencies to help build the capacities of local communities in order to enhance their knowledge to enable them to demand their rights in connection with the impact of mining on their communities.
A staff and facilitator of LEG, Mrs Comfort Agyei-Mensah, who read the press statement of the Ghana National Coalition on Mining, called on the EPA to withdraw the permits it had granted to Newmont and Adamus Resources Limited to begin operations under unexplained circumstances.
She stated that the withdrawal of the permit would be consistent with the recent position of the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources that “his outfit will not allow mining activities in to be carried out in restricted forest reserves”.
“We also demand a parallel capacity building programme for local communities to enhance their understanding of the EIA process and relevant content of the scooping reports and environmental impact statement reports. The Agency has the power and the option to impose tax deductible levy on the mining companies to fulfil this demand”, the statement added.
The Coalition further demanded the timely and adequate notification to communities before public hearings were conducted.
It added that the mode of notification to communities should also take account of the language and unique communication channels instead of limiting notices to the media and District Assembly notice boards.