Mr. Minister! Stop Newmont!!!

Chapter 12 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana Article 162 Clause five states: “All agencies of the mass media , shall at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this Constitution, and shall uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of Ghana.”

This Writer is invoking this mandate granted by the Constitution to ask Mr Colins Dauda, Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines, to revoke the mining lease he has granted Newmont Gold Ghana Limited (NGGL) to mine in the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve because it goes against the stated Government policy on protected areas.

“Ghana’s Agenda for Shared Growth and Development (GASGAD) 2010 -2013” states under “Sustainable Natural Resources Management” that “The main goal is the integration of the principles of sustainable development into national development policies and programmes.

The policy objectives are: “Maintain and enhance protected area systems – provide alternative livelihood for local people to reduce pressure on lands adjacent to protected areas and water bodies. Strengthen the legal framework on protected areas – empower District Assemblies to enforce laws on bushfires and strengthen the law enforcement unit of the Wildlife Division.

The others are:  “Curb the loss of biodiversity by the intensification of safe and sound environmental practices and facilitate the development of relevant sector biodiversity policies.”

If this is the policy of the Government, then how come that Mr Dauda has granted NGGL a mining lease to remove the Ajenua-Bepo and replace it with a trench that would be 2.5 kilometres long; 900 metres wide and 500 metres deep? The Minister owes Ghanaians an explanation.

It is in the interest of Mr Dauda and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Government to come out to explain what shows clearly as a policy contradiction.

This Writer is of the view that the negative impact of allowing NGGL to destroy the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve would far outweigh any temporary economic benefits that would accrue to the Republic of Ghana and, therefore, any patriotic Ghanaian, who really has the interest of Ghana at heart, should come out strongly against the destruction of the country’s forest reserves.

It is a fact that the gold bearing reef is found all over Ghana. The only difference is that at some places it comes to the surface while at other places it is deep down underground. What this means is that if we decide to mine the gold wherever it is known to exist it would mean that we are going to destroy the whole country so that Managers of multinational companies like NGGL and AngoloGold Ashanti could make more money for their shareholders in America and Europe.

What prevents NGGL from going into underground mining instead of surface mining which destroys the environment? This Writer is of the view that considering the advancement that humanity is making in technological innovations it would not be long when new methods of doing surface mining without destroying the environment would be found. Let us for the moment leave surface mining and concentrate on underground mining. After all using cyanide to leach out gold from ore is a very recent development and the process has effectively replaced the roasting method that produced arsenic that destroyed nearby vegetation.

Mining in the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve would lead to the disappearance of the Ajenua Bepo, which is the highest mountain in the area, to be replaced with a trench.

Since the mountain facilitates relief rainfall in the area its disappearance would lead to the creation of a micro-climate, which would impact negatively on farming activities in nearby areas.

A study funded by NGGL and carried out by Conservation International came out clearly to state that five tributaries of the Pra River would be destroyed and stressed the need to protect the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve, even though it had been ranked “depleted”, because it formed part of an area of continuous forest that was left in South-Eastern Ghana – the rest of the forest cover in the South-Eastern Ghana is gone.

Protest against the destruction of the Ajenua-Bepo has been ongoing but it appears Mr  Dauda is adamant and is not bothered about the destruction of Ajenua-Bepo, notwithstanding the fact that posterity would forever, associate him with this monumental destruction of a major national asset and landmark.

On February 11 2010, the Ghana News Agency reported: “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 in the Eastern Region.”

At a media encounter hosted by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), on Wednesday 7th October 2010, this Writer had the opportunity to ask the Chairman of NDPC, Mr P.V. Obeng whether the Commission had the clout to rein in Government functionaries, Ministries, Departments, Agencies, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies that went contrary to the policies stated in “Ghana’s Agenda for Shared Growth and Development, 2010 -2013” and he responded in the affirmative. This Writer is, therefore, expecting the Commission to call Mr Dauda to order.

If the Government wants Ghanaians to buy into the GASGAD then it must be seen to be implementing its provisions religiously otherwise it would be rejected like the proverbial “Old Cassava” the persipicacious Statesman, Mr J.H. Mensah said Ghanaians would reject during his electioneering campaign to become the New Patriotic Party  Presidential candidate for Election 2000.

By Boakye-Dankwa Boadi

Source: GNA

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