wpid-05-24-2013goldmining.jpgBy: SAMUEL APPIAH ADJEI

By an act of God, the country Ghana is blessed with so many mineral resources that are spread across the length and breadth of the country. There is no wonder the country was once called Gold Coast. Numerous towns including Obuasi, Tarkwa, Dunkwa, Awaso, Nsuta, Akwatia are known for precious minerals like gold, bauxite, manganese and diamond.

However, apart from the minerals that are associated with these cities, one cannot fathom what makes them qualify for such accolades. A typical Ghanaian mining community is bedevilled with so many problems. Ironically, whenever issues of mining are brought to the forefront, the sector?s contribution to GDP, the corporate tax paid and level of employment generated are always mentioned as a means of suppressing the various problems caused by the sector. This is not to advocate for preferential treatment for mining communities but to see a facelift of the various towns.

Paradoxically, non-mining communities possess so many amenities that the wealth creating areas are deprived of. A visit to Obuasi which is known for the colossal deposit of gold portrays a stark contrast to the beauty every mining communities ought to be. There are many deep potholes between Anwiankwanta to the golden city of Obuasi making one wonder whether the road is part of the concession earmarked for surface mining. The only showpiece in a town like Obuasi that inhabitants can pride themselves is the workers flat of which the inhabitants do not get direct benefits.

A research by Wassa Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) in 2010 in Obuasi and Tarkwa reveals that 250 river bodies have been polluted through mining activities. According to WACAM the polluted air and water possess serious threats to the health of inhabitants. As a result, diseases including malaria, diarrhoea and typhoid fever are prevalent in most mining communities. Waste disposal is also a major problem in mining communities. The Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 after investigating allegations of indiscriminate disposal of cyanide into some water bodies charged Newmont Goldmine Ghana and fined it US$ 8million. Another effect that easily eludes most people is the deprivation of farmlands especially to illegal mining operators. The one-off payment made to especially cocoa farmers by miners as compensation blindfold most farmers to accept and sell their lands. However, a research conducted by Prof. Kasim Kasanga indicates that one cocoa tree has the capacity to yield about half a bag of cocoa over a year within the lifespan of the cocoa tree of about 50 years. This clearly indicates that cocoa farming is more sustainable to farmers than easily giving out lands for colossal amounts which ends up impoverishing the people. As if not enough, the standard of living in most mining towns are very high. The recent inclusion of foreign illegal miners has worsened the situation by making life unbearable for indigenes. This makes inhabitants who don?t benefit from the mining activities doubly unfortunate.

Definitely, there is the need for a holistic approach by involving the various stakeholders in trying to improve upon the living standards of mining communities. Mining companies in the country can do better by not just resorting to the provision of schools and hospitals but creating opportunities for inhabitants which are sustainable. The multifaceted approach adopted by Newmont Ghana Gold Limited in improving living standards among the inhabitants of Ahafo is welcoming. The intervention includes growing local entrepreneurs, boasting agricultural productivity, infrastructure development and commitment to health and education of communities. No wonder Newmont Ghana received several awards including Best Community Procurement Award for its efforts in the Ahafo communities at the 2010 Chattered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Procurement Awards (UK). The establishment of civil society groups like the Wassa Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) in various mining communities can provide opportunities for inhabitants to air their grievances. Adherence to the laws by the various mining related agencies in applying sanctions can also ameliorate some problems. The chieftaincy institutions should also rise to the occasion by serving as advocates rather than been interested in the sale of lands and receiving royalties. A cardinal tool is the attitudinal change of the Ghanaians not to serve as agents in promoting illegal mining by expatriates just for meagre amounts far lesser than the resultant effect on the environment. Indeed, Zimmerman?s assertion that ?resources are not they become? is clearly seen in our mining communities were the existence of minerals is not leading improvement in the life of indigenes. With consented efforts and positive attitude we shall overcome.

SAMUEL APPIAH ADJEI ([email protected])

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