THE GOVERNMENT, despite willing to protect the environment from environmental degradation by mining companies especially in forest reserves, has given an approval to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve all mining companies who have applied to mine in the forest reserves.
Before March 1996, some companies had been permitted to carry out mineral exploration activities within forest reserves but out of a growing concern for the depletion of forest reserves and degradation, the ministry of lands and forestry placed a ban on mineral operations in forest reserves.
Mr. Rasford Sekyi, the Senior Programme Officer of EPA disclosed this to The Business Chronicle in his office yesterday in Accra.
He named the three forest reserves to be mined as the Kubi, Obuasi, Tanosoraw in the Bekwai and Bibiani districts and Ajenjua at New Abriem and AngloGold Ashanti, Chirano Goldmines and Newmont.
"Companies that possess valid minerals exploration licences are the only companies that will carry out explorations in forest reserves," says Mr. Sakyi.
Sekyi said the ministry of mines and forestry granted permit for field explorations in forest reserves to the mining companies, but must first acquire a permit from the chief conservation of forest (CCF), authorising exploration work in the forest reserve.
"The acquisition of a forestry permit and grant of an exploration license should undertake an environmental assessment to confirm the condition of the forest reserve."
Mining in a forest reserve is guided by environmental guidelines. These guidelines are assisted by a liaison group pinched from the EPA, Forestry Commission, Chamber of Mines, Mines Department, Ministry of Forestry, Lands and Mines and some district assemblies in which the project is located.
The role of the liaison is to coordinate the works of the relevant institutions and liase with the mining companies.
The liaison group is also to ensure that relevant institutions take an active role in assuming a certified environmental outcome of mining projects in forest reserves.
The technical officer stated that, to facilitate this and ensure that all these are done, a community liaison group was inaugurated on the 7th of this month and its membership consists of Paboase, Akoti, Etweaboat from Bekwai, the Bibiani Alweso district and the traditional councils.