30 November 2012

Ghana: Protect Our Forest Reserves, WACAM Urges Politicians

Politicians in the country have been urged to make it a priority even as they embark on their campaign and when they take up the mantle of leadership to protect the forest reserves in Ghana.

At a roundtable discussion organised by the West Africa Coalition Against Mining (WACAM), various political parties, the media and faith based organisations met in Accra to deliberate on natural resource governance. This exercise was undertaken to equip participants, especially political party activists with basic information of the overview of mining in Ghana, what the law says and how to improve the law in order to improve the lives of citizens.

The deliberations also focused on how natural resource governance can form part of policy for implementation by politicians when they are voted into power so that Ghana would realize some benefits from its natural resource.

The Associate Executive Director of WACAM, Mrs Hannah Owusu Koranteng during the discussions mentioned that, "mining has no business in forest reserves" and cites the former Minister of Lands and Natural Resources-Collins Dauda as having said that, " in 23 years, Ghana would lose all its forest reserves at the current rate of depletion."

Mining in forest reserves contravenes certain provisions in the National Land Policy developed by the Ministry of Lands & Forestry in 1999. Mining is also not integrated with any aspect of the economy.

Section 4.5 (a) of the National Land Policy states that: '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 National Land Policy of 1999 states further in Section 4.4 (b) that 'All lands are 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 protection.'

Mining companies have mined the Kubi, Tano Suraw and part of the Nueng Forest Reserves and exploration works are ongoing at Bonsa Forest Reserves.

Newmont has the intention to mine in the Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve in the Akyem Project and use Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP) as a way of rationalizing the destruction of the forest reserves by mining companies. There are also future plans to explore Bonsambepo, Ayun and Subin Forest Reserves at Brong Ahafo.

Ghana has signed on UN charter on mining but Ghana's mining law is not in tandem with its constitution.

The 1992 Republican Constitution of Ghana states that, the Sovereignty of Ghana resides in the people of Ghana in whose name and for whose welfare the powers of government are to be exercised in the manner and within the limits laid down in this Constitution.

But the Minerals and Mining Act of 2006 states that, every mineral in its natural state in, under or upon land in Ghana, rivers, streams, water-courses throughout the country, the exclusive economic zone and an area covered by the territorial sea or continental shelf is the property of the republic and is vested in the President in trust for the people of Ghana.

Participants believe that, just as the sovereignty of Ghana resides in the people of Ghana, so should every mineral in Ghana and not the President.

A call was therefore made by the participants for a review of Ghana's mining act which is fraught with a lot of loopholes, to reflect the aspirations of Ghanaians.

The meeting was made possible with sponsorship from Star Ghana, USAID, EU, DANIDA & UKAID.

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