They said weak mining and environmental laws, as well as weak mining regulatory institutions, constituted an incentive for mining companies to externalize the social, economic, cultural and environmental costs associated with mining operations to Government and the local communities.
These were contained in a communiqué issued by the Volunteers and Activists at the end of a three-day workshop on the Minerals and Mining Act in Tema.
WACAM is an environmental and human rights mining advocacy nongovernmental organisation, which utilizes rights-based advocacy approaches to build the capacity of communities affected by mining and engages in policy advocacy in the mining sector.
The workshop participants, which also included representatives from other civil society groups, urged the Government to have a second look at the Minerals and Mining Act, and the “Lands and Natural Resources” Chapter of the Constitution.
For instance, they called for the insertion of a policy of “No Mining in Protected Areas,” in the Constitution, if the nation was not to lose its Forest Reserves in the next two or three decades.
The participants were of the view that since most of the country’s forest reserves sat on minerals, especially gold, and with the increasing price of the commodity, multinational mining companies were pressurizing on the Government to grant them permits to mine in those reserves.
They pointed out that mining in forest reserves contravened certain provisions in the National Land Policy (NLP) developed by the Ministry of Lands and Forestry in 1999.
Section 4.5 (a) of the NLP states: “To ensure the conservation of environmental quality, no land with primary forest cover will be cleared for the purpose of establishing a forest or tree crop plantation or mining activity.”
The Policy states further in Section 4.4 (b) that “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.”
They also called for the amendment of Article 257 (6) of the Constitution which vests minerals in their natural states in, under or upon any land in Ghana, rivers, streams, water sources throughout the country, in the President, on behalf of and in trust for Ghanaians.
In their estimation, the workshop participants thought that the minerals should rather be vested in the people of Ghana and the President acts on their behalf, and in trust for Ghanaians.
Looking at Section 25 of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006, Act 703, which deals with Royalties, the workshop participants regretted that all mining companies in the country were paying the lowest royalty rate of 3.0 per cent.
They were of the opinion that asking mining companies to pay from 3.0 per cent to 6.0 per cent in royalties on the total revenue of their minerals, none of them was prepared to go beyond the minimum, but if the rate were pegged at a fixed figure of say 6.0 per cent, then all mining companies would be forced to comply.
Touching on Section 50 of the Act under the heading: “Recruitment and training of Ghanaians,” the participants contended that most the local people be considered for recruitment and training.
The workshop participants stated that since Ghana was a signatory to the ECOWAS Directive on the Harmonization of Guiding Principles and Policies in the Mining Sector, the review would go a long way not only to ensure high standards of accountability for the mining companies, but would also promote human rights, transparency and social equity, as well as provide protection for local communities and the environment in mining areas within the West Africa Sub-Region.