Chamber quashes claims: Mining not killing agric industry

mining.jpgThe Ghana Chamber of Mines says the view that mining companies are
destroying agriculture in the country is not borne out by the fact.

The
Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) had
recently raised concern about the large tracts of agricultural lands
currently under mining concession.

It said government had
granted more than 200 mining leases with mining companies holding 30
per cent of the country’s land surface area with grave consequences for
agriculture and livelihoods of people in the communities.

However,
in a statement signed by Ahmed Nantogmah, Director Public Affairs of
the Chamber of Mines, the mining leases of the 14 major mining
operations take up less than two per cent of the country’s total land
area.

The Chamber maintained that a lease merely means a legal
right and government approval to potentially mine and does not mean
that active mining is taking place.

“In addition, for most of
these projects, only a portion of the leases are needed for active
mining and ancillary infrastructure and activity.”

For
instance, the Newmont Ahafo mine only takes up 6% of its lease. Farming
is still carried out on the unutilized portions of the leases, the
statement said.

The Chamber said official government records
had shown that agricultural production had been on the increase during
the period when gold production had increased four fold between 1990
and 2006.

“If mining were ‘killing agriculture’, it is hard to see how both could increase at the same time.

Against these facts, we submit that WACAM’s claims are not supported by the facts.”

As
part of the community relations, the Chamber of Mines said mining
companies are working with several NGOs on agricultural projects that
will enhance the productivity and incomes of farmers in the mining
areas.

These include agricultural enhancement programmes which
seek to increase the levels of agricultural produce and enhance at the
same time, market access for local farmers.

For instance, out of
the 3,000 farmers who were affected by the establishment of the mine
and compensated by Newmont, over 78% have participated in the Newmont
Agricultural Improvement and Land Access programme and are now back on
the land farming.

“In our books, this represents a productive
economic use of Ghana’s land that in turn provides employment for
thousands of people as well as taxes, royalties, dividends. The
industry also expends millions of dollars on goods and services in the
country. More pertinently, once mining is completed, most of the land
will be reclaimed and returned for other uses including farming.”

On resettlement, the Chamber of Mines said it was done in a fully democratic, representative and transparent fashion.

“This
is a practice which we are seeking to enhance even more with increased
collaboration and dialogue to ensure that impacted people participate
in every aspect of the planning and the decision-making for the desired
end.”

While admitting that mining impacts on the environment,
the Chamber said the mining companies were strictly regulated by the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that they mitigate any
environmental and social impacts.

Also a new and innovative
environmental rating system is being implemented to assess and publicly
disclose each mine’s environmental performance.

In addition,
member companies of the Chamber are using industry-leading practices
whenever they emerge for environmental protection. These include lined
tailings storage, secondary containment for pipes and fuel storage,
Isotainers for cyanide transport, cyanide recovery circuits, concurrent
reclamation and extensive sediment control structures.

All these initiatives were unknown to those who operated our mines in the immediate past.

The
Chamber and its members have partnered with Conservation International
and other NGOs to develop ways to protect and enhance biodiversity on
mining concessions and mined out areas.”

On mining in forest
reserves, the Chamber said only five projects are engaged in working in
productive forest reserves. The total land take in these reserves is
less than 0.2 per cent of the forest reserves in Ghana.

The
Chamber said it recognized the role of ‘watchdog’ organizations and
will continue to engage with as many of them as possible to join it to
create the basis for an even more socio-economically productive mining
industry in Ghana.

“We however believe that the dialogue needs
to be undertaken in an honest, transparent and factual and productive
manner,” it added.

Source: GNA