The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has developed the AKOBEN programme to carry out its mandate in conformity with the principles of the National Environment Policy. A statement issued by the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining-Africa Network (ASMAN) says the programme is an environmental performance rating and disclosure initiative of the EPA, but did not cover small scale mining.
Under the initiative, the environmental performance of mining operations with the exclusion of small scale mining operators are monitored and assessed in line with set standards as well as Environmental Impact Assessments guidelines. The statement issued by Nii Adjetey-Kofi Mensah in Accra said: “We understand AKOBEN is to serve as a monitoring and verification programme to ensure that all mining companies, including small scale mining, follow environmental regulations on a continual basis.
It said a recent two-day international roundtable on Reducing Environmental Health Impacts of Harmful Pollutants in the Africa Region organised by the World Bank in collaboration with the EPA, in Accra, there were deliberations on the dangerous impact of pollutants in general, such as e-waste and mercury use in the small scale mining sector. Additionally, collaborative efforts within and outside the countries of concern as well as efforts been made for reduction and elimination of contaminations were discussed.
“We at ASMAN wish to remind the EPA that following our submission made at the conference on the subject-matter in relation to small scale mining in Ghana; we are still expectant of a major policy move to ensure the institutionalisation of the AKOBEN model for the small scale mining industry in order to halt the current trend where small scale miners have illegally graduated from the mercury-abuse to the usage of unauthorised cyanide. “ASMAN also notes with grave concern the lack of education and development of national plans on Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) including a public health strategy that addresses awareness-raising on the Minamata Convention on Mercury,” the statement said.
It said as a step to substantially reduce the use of mercury in ASGM, ASMAN saw the introduction of the ThermEx Retort by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in collaboration with the Minerals Commission of Ghana, as a step in the right direction; but the accompanying challenge posed by the use the retort had not been evaluated, for subsequent enforcement.
The statement said it is an open knowledge that mercury exposure in ASGM communities is associated with adverse health effects including kidney dysfunction, autoimmune and neurological symptoms. ASMAN therefore wish to propose that whilst the World Bank continues to use roundtable to solving remediation of the contaminations; the EPA should adopt an all-inclusive approach (with small scale miners), to produce a reference document for remediation and enhance the fallen image of the ASM Sector in Ghana.
ASMAN takes this opportunity to remind the Chief Programme Officer, Mining Department of EPA, Mr Ransford Sekyi of the Agencies assurance on instituting a customised version of the AKOBEN programme for the Small Scale Mining Sector in Ghana.
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