Don’t allow Newmont to operate in forest reserve — YAG (pg )

YOUTH for Action Ghana (YAG), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), has called on the government to revoke the mining lease granted to Newmont Gold Ghana Limited (NGGL) to operate in the Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve in the Birim North District of the Eastern Region.
It said the decision of the government to allow mining in the reserve defeated government’s own policy of rehabilitating degraded forests in the country.
Addressing a news conference in Accra last Wednesday, the Executive Director of YAG, Mr James Kwabena Bomfeh Jnr, said the previous stance of the government to not to “allow mining in the forest reserve was hailed by civil society organisations and Ghanaians”.
He said those organisations described the decision as a progress stance by the current government in aligning mining issues to the National Land Policy (NLP) of 1999 and the ECOWAS Mining Directive on the Harmonisation of the Guiding Principles and Policies in the mining sector which were ratified by the Government of Ghana in April 2009.
The NLP of 1999 states that “to ensure 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”.
Mr Bomfeh said it was worrying that the government was reneging on its own promise to abrogate any contract the previous government entered into concerning mining in the forest reserves.
He stated that the argument that the forest reserves in question were degraded, hence the decision to degrade it further through surface mining operations undermined the government’s efforts in seeking grants from development partners to rehabilitate degraded forests in the country.
He said the reserve was of bio-diversity importance and contained rare and endangered species that would be destroyed by the mining operations, the reason for which the United Nations Human Rights Commission queried the Government of Ghana over the Newmont Akyem Project, in addition to more than 6,330 petitions from 50 countries against the project.
Mr Bomfeh said it was a “fallacy for the government and protagonists of the mining in that forest to think that bio-diversity could be destroyed and then be replaced with the creation of tree plantations to offset the harm caused through the Business and Bio-diversity Offsets Programme (BBOP).
“You cannot destroy the forest and then find another means to replace it,” he stated.
Mr Bomfeh noted with concern that the traditional rulers condoning the act lived far away from the sites and hence could not be said to feel the consequences of the act.
He said comments from the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Collins Dauda, and other government officials that it was not possible to protect forest reserves from illegal miners would rather serve as an incentive to such people to exploit the forest.
“If it is a crime for a mining company to mine in the forest reserve; the government and its agencies should have a responsibility to ensure that the forest reserves are protected from galamsey operators,” he stressed.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Prestea-Huni Valley, Mr Kofi Blay, stated that surface mining had not contributed to the development of the economy, hence the need to tell the advocates for mining in the forest that “enough is enough” in order to save generations yet to be born.
He said records showed that even bush meat contributed about $300 million to the national economy as against surface mining which contributed less than $50 million.
Prof. Attah Britwum of the Department of French, University of Ghana, said the decision to allow mining in the forest was a slap on the face of the rule of law.
He said Newmont had demonstrated in its operations that it had no respect for the people, alleging that there had been occasions that human waste was discharged into water bod

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