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Companies fail to engage community members in mining exploration – WACAM

Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining [WACAM], community-based human rights and environmental mining advocacy has revealed that mining companies in the country have failed to engage the communities where these mining activities are taking place hence end up violating their human rights and deprive them of their livelihood.

Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining [WACAM], community-based human rights and environmental mining advocacy has revealed that mining companies in the country have failed to engage the communities where these mining activities are taking place hence end up violating their human rights and deprive them of their livelihood.

This was made known after the Non-Governmental Organisation, WACAM commissioned research into community involvement in mining communities in three districts in the Bono East Region; namely Atebubu-Amantin, Nkoranza North and Nkoranza South.

The research concluded that mining companies in Ghana and for that matter the government in the case in Bono East Region blatantly abused the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in engaging community members about the impending mining exploration.

Speaking on the theme; ‘Promoting Community Participation in Minerals Resources Exploration for Responsible Mining,’ the Associate Executive Director of WACAM, Mrs Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, said the initial engagements by the agents of Ghana National Petroleum Commission (GNPC) in the three districts where there is ongoing onshore oil and gas exploration did not meet the minimum of the FPIC protocols.

Mrs Owusu-Koranteng said base on the research conducted in these areas, GNPC is likely to meet stiff opposition during oil and gas exploration in these mining communities because the mining companies failed to properly engage the community members.

“If we get the foundation wrong in the community consent processes concerning onshore oil exploration, we are bound to reap the same result of conflicts, human rights abuses, environmental pollution, social and cultural disintegration which has been associated with gold mining and mining operations in the country. We should therefore avoid this trajectory associated with gold mining and exploration,” Mrs Owusu-Koranteng stressed.

She, therefore, appealed to the government to begin the implementation of the FPIC principle in the new areas of mining operations especially communities that would be affected by onshore oil production.

Scope of study

Giving an overview of the Study dubbed: “Onshore Petroleum Exploration in Ghana; A Study on Community Rights”, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Education, Winneba, Dr Yaw Asamoah revealed that food baskets communities such as the Atebubu-Amantin, Nkoranza North and Nkoranza South Districts where there is an ongoing onshore oil exploration, engagements by agents of GNPC with those affected communities did not meet the minimum standards of the FPIC protocols.

Dr Asamoah said purposive sampling by key informants such as chiefs, elders, district assemblies’ staff and assembly members showed that there was low to no level of community participation against the principle of self-determination which is an International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“There was the inadequate implementation of the principle of FPIC so they cannot demand adequate compensation for their losses or request further conditions for the consent given and even demand that the project be stopped at any time they assess that the exploration is not in their interest”, Dr Asamoah emphasized.

The mining expert further revealed that there were times where exploration agents had deceived communities in Beposo a community in the aforementioned districts that they are in the communities to lay tracks or construct roads for them only to see the exploration agents from GNPC destroying their farmlands.

On his part, another lecturer at the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Dr Emmanuel Tenkorang, who was also part of the study revealed that compensation promised farmers were also not paid in full in utter disregard for the FPIC adding that an act by the explorers which shocked the communities as was narrated by an Assemblyman was the fact that the borehole that the explorers dug which provided water to the community was destroyed and the pipes disconnected by the explorers before deserting the community unceremoniously.

Dr Tenkorang said “Majority of the respondents perceived the exploration to be either close to their livelihood or their communities. A minority of respondents perceived the exploration to have negatively affected their social and economic rights.”

The study, therefore, recommended that district assemblies and CSOs should conduct public education campaigns in the basin to educate the communities before engaging in the onshore exploration.

“In the situation where people’s property or crops are going to be destroyed by the project, the proponent should negotiate and come to an agreement with the owners /farmers before the property is finally destroyed”, the study concluded.

Touching on the objective of the study, Dr Tenkorang said the study was to investigate the level of participation of communities based on the ongoing exploration, investigate awareness of the affected communities about their human rights in the ongoing exploration.

He added that the study also examined how well the principle of FPIC has been sought in the exploration process as well as explore the extent to which social license has been granted to the GNPC in the exploration process.

Cross-section of participants

The various players in the mining sector discussed issues about the cosmetic or absence of community participation in the processes to seek the consent or what is professionally described as the Social License of Communities in the event of mining including oil and gas.

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