Joyce Aryee Goofed Over Mining And Its Impact On the People

Joyce Aryee Goofed Over Mining And Its Impact On the People

Wednesday, August 9th 2006

The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, Miss Joyce Aryee made interesting comments on TV3 on Monday 31st July and Tuesday 1st August 2006 respectively about mining and its impact on the socio-economic livelihood of the people in mining communities.

Her comments on TV3′s START programme on Monday and Asem Sebe on Tuesday were very interesting indeed. She raised several issues worth considering but for want of space, l will address just two of these issues. She sought to give the impression that mining companies are living up to their social responsibilities and that the occasional altercations between them and the communities in which they operate is a result of the activities of “some advocacy organisations who are opposed to globalization and are uncomfortable with the presence of multinational corporations. They claim they are not against mining but their activities suggest otherwise”.

Whiles she is entitled to her opinion, it is very disingenuous on her part for her to blame advocacy organisations for fanning tension in mining communities. Anybody who knows the history of mining in the country will understand that in the not too distant past, residents of mining communities dared not raise their voices against the companies, most of who abused and in fact, continue to abuse their rights. The general perception was that you could not litigate with the mining companies who are well resourced and have both local and international connections. They were therefore a law on to themselves, trampling on innocent and helpless residents’ human rights with careless abandon. The issue of human rights abuses in mining communities is well documented and state agencies like CHRAJ have already started doing some work in that regard so there is really no need to go into that.

For the information of Miss Joyce Aryee and those who think like her, it is advocacy organisations that have taken it upon themselves to go to these remote and almost forgotten mining communities to offer training in human rights for residents.

These training sessions have actually raised the awareness level of residents of the mining communities who now use lawful means to engage with the mining companies. This is a far cry from the situation in the not too distant past when communities took up arms and created unbearable situations for the mining companies to undertake their lawful activities.

If the level of open confrontations between mining communities and companies has reduced, one can only say kudos to advocacy organisations like the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) and Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) and Public Agenda who have opened a new chapter of civilized engagement with mining companies to resolve community problems. But for the work WACAM and what other NGOs are doing, Ghana would not have been different from countries like El Salvador, Peru or the Philippines, where communities have launched guerrilla wars against state-backed mining companies. The troubles in the Niger Delta should further let us appreciate the important role of dialogue in conflict resolution.

The CEO of the Chamber of Mines further argued that mining is a sustainable development activity. I do not know what body of knowledge informs this perception but the widely accepted definition of the concept seems to crush her argument.

Sustainable development simply looks at using resources in such a manner that it will not jeopardize the usage of the same resources by succeeding generations. This definition therefore considers two things, the first being that resources should be used judiciously to make it possible for subsequent generations to also come and use them.

The second meaning of the concept is that while using the resources, extreme conditions of negativity should not be created that will require the use of other scarce resources to clear up. Considering that mining involves the extraction of non-renewable minerals, there is clearly no doubt that it is not sustainable.

Furthermore, mining leaves behind such monumental mess that it takes the injection of huge capital to restore the land back to its original shape, if that were possible at all. The ill-considered decision of the government in the 1980s to permit large scale surface mining has led to untold problems for people of Obuasi, Prestea (the people of Prestea continue to reel under the impact of surface mining), Dumasi, Tarkwa, etc. Farmers lost their farmlands and were paid a pittance. Water bodies have been destroyed. Land has been polluted and rendered useless. Residents have had to endure excruciating health conditions as a result of mining.

Admittedly, some of the mining companies are busily constructing various social projects that they have termed part of their corporate social responsibility.

Probably, Ghanaians have to assess whether it really makes sense to destroy the only source of drinking water of a community, provide them with a borehole (whose maintenance costs they have to bear anyway) and term it social responsibility! If for nothing at all, these projects could be described as restorative projects and not social responsibility! The impression should not be created that the mining companies are doing the communities a favour by giving them these projects. The truth is that the communities are having to pay for facilities that they hitherto enjoyed freely.

There is no doubt that mining leads to a dislocation of the social structure of mining communities. What the companies and indeed, the Chamber of Mines should be doing is to engage the communities in constructive dialogue to resolve the numerous problems mining has brought. The continuous use of the media to spread lies and half truths will only lead to an escalation of the conflicts that exists between the companies and communities.

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