Ghana government asked to revoke Newmont’s mining lease in Forest Reserve

A group of 14 organisations has asked the Government to revoke the mining lease and permit granted to Newmont Gold Ghana Limited (NGGL) to destroy the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve, citing contravention of National Land Policy.

Mining in the Reserve would lead to the creation of a trench, which would be 2.5 kilometres long; 900 metres wide and 500 metres deep.

NGGL last week announced that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Government had consummated the process began by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Government to allow the destruction of the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve, citing the provision of employment for the youth in the area and the fear that Galamssey Operators would invade the area, among the reasons.

Addressing a news conference in Accra, the Spokesperson of the organisations, Mr Kwabena Bomfeh accused the Government “of engaging in policy contradictions and violating national laws, visions and regulations”.

He said mining in forest reserves contravened certain provisions in the National Land Policy developed by the Ministry of Lands and Forestry in 1999, adding that Section 4.5(a) states that to ensure the conservation of environmental quality, no land with primary forest cover would be cleared for the purpose of establishing a forest or tree crop plantation or mining activity.

The National Land Policy of 1999 states further in Section 4.4(b): “All lands declared as forest reserves , strict nature reserves , national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and similar land categories constitute Ghana’s permanent forest reserves and wildlife estates , and are ‘fully protected’ for ecosystem maintenance , biodiversity conservation and sustainable timber production.”

Debunking the argument that the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve could be restored after NGGL had destroyed it, Mr Bomfeh quoted a document titled “Mining in Forest Reserves- Concerns of the Forestry Commission” which stated: “Mining companies have often been required to rehabilitate even off-reserve areas they have mined. Although Off-reserve mining has gone on in Ghana for some time, we are yet to see a demonstration from industry any best practice rehabilitation suitable to tropical forests”.

The Forestry Commission document concluded: “The Commission is thus hesitant about destroying more areas with the hope of rehabilitating them. We believe we should get the rehabilitation methods right in off-reserve forests before venturing into Forest Reserves.”

Mr Bomfeh said NGGL had not yet paid compensation to the affected people but the Company had already asked the farmers in the Akyem area where the mining activities of the Newmont Akyem Project would take place not to upgrade their farms and buildings as part of the Company’s legal rights, which had been imposed on the people through the granting of the mining lease and permit.

He said the Police have been posted on sentry duties in some of the communities to ensure that the economic activities of the poor farmers came to an abrupt end in contravention of the National Land Policy that: “No interest in or right over any land belonging to an individual, family, clan, stool or skin can be compulsorily acquired without payment,, in reasonable time, of fair and adequate compensation.

Section 13(9) of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006(Act 703) also states that a mineral right holder has sufficient authority to enter the land in respect of which the right is granted subject to negotiating compensation with affected farmers (Section 73) and paying compensation based on compensation principle (Section 74).

One of the objectives of the National Land Policy of 1999 is to “Protect the rights of landowners and their descendants from becoming landless or tenants on their own land,” he said, adding that “mining in Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve is going to make the landowners in the Akyem Kotoku area landless and tenants on their own lands”.

The 14 organisations included: Youth for Action Ghana (YAG); Dialogue for Advocacy; Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference Secretariat; Centre for Labour Rights and Community Services (CLARCS) and Center for Public Interest Law, (CEPIL).

The others are; Voices of Tomorrow Leaders Foundation (VOTOLEAF); Concerned Citizens Association of Prestea; Concerned Farmers Association of Akyem; WACAM; Youth and Concerned Farmers Association of Teberebie; Youth and Concern Group of Teleku-Bokazo and Anwia and Third World Network.

The rest are; Convention People’s Party (CPP); GIA/NABIO Agro Forestry Development Organisation (GNADO) and Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis (CEIA).

Source: GNA

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