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THE MINING WAR…How bad are foreign mining companies?

Alhaji-Inusah-Fuseini-The ecological system of Ghana is under threat. That is a fact! But who is responsible for the degradation of Ghana’s ecological system and the often dehumanizing conditions associated with the phenomenon? Is it the licensed foreign mining company or the illegal surface mining gangs otherwise known as Galamseyers?

Apart from indiscriminate felling of tress by individuals, private organisations and often irresponsible state institutions which, fell trees for lumbering without re-planting; foreign mining companies have come under the microscopic lenses of the affected areas and other non- governmental organisations as the number one contributor  to the dilapidated state of the country’s eco-system or environment.

Judging from the face value and the fact that almost every mining community is confronted by degradation, high level poverty and the dilapidated infrastructure, one is tempted to acquiesce so easily to the emotional charges often leveled against such mining companies.

Indeed how would anybody not hold the mining companies responsible for the accusations when the visible relics of mining activities are glaringly noticed poignantly when one visits such mining towns like Bibiani, Damaang, Prestea, and Bogoso in the Western Region; Nsuta and Obuasi in the Ashanti Region; Akwatia in the Eastern Region, and; other areas where there are mineral deposits. But are the foreign mining companies the only ones engaged in mining in these areas? What about the Galamsey boys?

The accusation against the mining companies has genre of a generational pass-over. So to that young indigenous person from any of the affected areas, the expatriate miners are their number one enemy. That is what they have been fed with since he/she attained adulthood. It is interesting to note that even intellectuals who perhaps should be probing further have become consummate hardliners who would not for once deal with the reality than the generational emotional dirges against the expatriate miner.

As naturally endowed areas, the pervasive poverty levels and generally the degrading living conditions in these areas are so appalling that again one is tempted to question whether at all it is worth living or being born in an area seen to be that rich in natural endowment and yet poverty reigns.

The mining companies had in recent times come under intense pressure from such indigenous groups which have constituted themselves into pressure groups to exact from the mining companies compensations. Others with little or no idea about mining have virtually encroached on concessions of the mining companies, as a way of protest against what they consider to be legitimately theirs.

These pressure groups have resorted to picketing and other forms of violence against the mining companies accusing the miners of not only being insensitive to the plight of indigenous residents, but also brutalising them without any provocation. As one of the newspaper which many of the so-called brutalised lots have reported their plight to, we set out on a fact-finding mission to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the claim.

Some of the mining companies that have been accused by their immediate “neighbours”-indigenous residents include Ashanti Goldfields, Newmont Ghana Limited and quite recently the Golden Star Resources Limited, operators of the Prestea, Bogoso Gold Mine in the Western Region.  Interestingly, our research recorded similar data in all the “accused” mining areas. And that is quite interesting.

Our research was devoid of partisan sentimentalism. It delved dispassionately into the issues without recourse to any prejudice as most Ghanaians, especially Ghanaian NGOs had done in the past.

Legal Regime

The paper discovered that no mining company operates without a defined legal regime. Their concessions are offered them by the State with Government and the Chamber of Mines serving as representatives of the State.

galamseyUnlike the popular view held in some quarters that mining companies have a commitment towards the communities that they operate, the paper established from its findings that there is no such provision in the legal administration that defines operations of the mining companies.

Instead there is a very loose arrangement that suggests that special compensation should be paid to indigenous residents of the catchment whose lands would be affected by the operations of the mining companies.

The miners are instructed to have a partnership agreement with chiefs and elders of the community that they would be working to strike a working arrangement or relationship that will ensure a serene atmosphere for their operations and by extension all parties involved. It’s a kind of social contract that ensures that at least chiefs and people of a given catchment area do not feel too aggrieved about the fact that they had lost some of their fertile lands which to many of them, is their birth rites.

These conditions are binding on all mining companies currently operating in Ghana. The company is also entreated to discuss and consult with the community on issues of mutual interest and promote peace and harmony between the company and community, whereas the parties agreed to abide by the principles of openness and sharing of information that will enable them understand each other’s perspectives on issues of mutual interest.

Essence of Agreement

In essence, the agreement was meant for the parties to resolve all disputes that may arise through mutual dialogue without recourse to any legal resolution. Thus the parties agree to acknowledge and confirm that the agreement does not create any legally enforceable rights to the benefit of either party and that all disputes or grievances of any kind arising out of either party are all resolved using the agreed mechanisms by all parties involved in the agreement.

In other words by the agreement or the policies prescribed all disputes shall be settled through mediation and conciliation making use of the existing Complaints Resolutions Committee provided for in this agreement. The Parties hereby renounce their rights to enter into any form of litigation or arbitration on any disputes or grievances arising out if this Agreement.

It therefore came as surprise to Today that agitating youth will resort to all manner of violence as a means of raising their concerns when indeed a conflict resolution mechanism had been agreed on by all parties in the communities and towns.

Golden Star (Bogoso/Prestea) Limited

Although the paper sampled operations of four mining companies, we began with our findings at the concessionary area of Golden Star (Prestea/Bogoso mining company in the first in the series of our coverage of mining concessions in the country. The others will be Ashantigold Ghana Limited, Newmont Ghana Limited and other emerging ones.

Settlements under Prestea catchment area include: A compound, Aketewa, Anfagya, Anwiam, Boleekyir, Broadcasting area, Brumase, Dagarti Compound, Krytown, Kwame Niampa, Mankessim, Market Square, Nakaba, Nsuekyir, Roman Hill, Top Hill. The Bogoso catchment includes areas- Adjeikrom, Akokobediabrow, Bogoso, Esikafoambantem, Atobrakrom, Yebedanegya, Atekyem and Kpkoase.

In the case of settlements under Himan catchment area, this is what the paper discovered: Himan, Ankobra, Aheneboboano, Akromanto, Bantima, Sikafoambatem with settlements under Bondaye area making up of Barracks (Low-cost),Cemetery Road, New Compound, Sedemase, Sedumase Chapel, and Sedumase Zongo,

Mbease Nsuta catchment area is made up of Bawua Akura, Mbease Nsuta, Nsuta Mantem (Gooday), Nsuta Nyamebekyere, Nsuta Bowohomoden and those under Boppoh being Boppoh township, Ankomanyinkrom, Apeatse, Boppoh Kpbrim, Bopoh Kokwaado/Boppoh Kokwaado, Boppoh Nkuntnso, Krobo Line Kumsuno. Under Ehyireso we have Enhyireso and Ehyireso Akromanto with Adaamanso area including Adaamanso, Somanya, Odisikakrrom, Bontaware Bonsubonsuho and Dumasi, Brakwa and Juabeng Twigya making up the Dumasi Catchment area.

Without any prejudice, the paper discovered from our research findings that Golden Star (Bogoso/Prestea) has perhaps received severe flak in the media quite recently for the wrong reasons.  Obviously, many of the agitations raised by some aggrieved youth of the communities where Golden Star operates are ironically covering up for their illegal operations on the concessions of Golden Star Prestea/Bogoso.

The youth-group accused Golden Star of unleashing police brutalities on some residents of Prestea-Bondaye and Mbease-Nsuta. Golden Star owns majority of its concession at Prestea-Bondaye and Mbease-Nsuta. The irate youth were led by the Prestea Stakeholders Coalition, Voices of Tomorrow Leaders Foundation (VOTOLEAF); the Assembly Members of the area and the Member of Parliament (MP) for Prestea Huni-Valley- Adu Blay-Koffie.

According to them, the four mining communities were on the verge of being destroyed by Golden Star Resources Limited (GSBPL) and therefore called for the setting up of a Commission of Enquiry to investigate the matter. They alleged the mining company hired police and armed military men to “shot and brutalise” them.

Interestingly, Today established from investigations that the people or residents of the four mining communities cannot claim that Golden Star was destroying their lands and environment because the company was yet to start work on its concession in these areas. Even areas where Golden Star had finished or completed operations, they had reclaimed those lands by re-filling and re-planting the filled-lands. The paper saw how most of the reclaimed lands had blossomed into a secondary forest, especially at their Bogoso concession.

Since the inception of operations of Gold Star (Bogoso/Prestea,) the paper established that it has always operated an open door policy by engaging key stakeholders to assess the requirement for obtaining any environmental permit from the EPA before the company could start any mining project.

Ironically, as our findings suggest, it is rather some of the indigenous residents—mostly the youth with the help of some other intruders who have virtually laid siege or balkanized the concession of Golden Star in that area. Almost every creek is dried up because of the illegal activities of the illegal miners.

Even the famous Ankobra River which hitherto served as the major source of drinking water of the people of Prestea and its environs can no longer serve that purpose. The colour of the Ankobra river is now brownish-yellow and cannot even be used for washing.

“We can neither drink from the river nor wash with it. We get some irritation anytime we took or bath with water from the Ankobra River,” some residents of Prestea told the paper.

Their concerns were corroborated by some elderly residents who paid tribute to the Ankobra River for supporting them, especially during their formative days and wondered why government was not cracking down on the illegal miners who are virtually rendering Prestea and Bogoso inhabitable.

On the allegations that the company hired police and armed military men to brutalise residents, the paper found out that indeed when Golden Star discovered that their concessions were being destroyed by the galamseyers, the company reported the action of the encroachers to the security agencies who in turn dealt with the recalcitrant youth.

“How do you allow your land to be encroached on by people who would not even build on it but rather destroy our concession and by extension the environment? As a law abiding company we did the right thing by reporting the conduct of the galamsey boys to the appropriate quarters. I think people should commend us for not taking the law into our own hands but allowed the law to work,” a casual worker at Golden Star told Today.

At a forum to address some of the concerns raised by the youth, they (youth) tried albeit unsuccessfully to prevent people from attending the forum. But for the proactive stance of the police, the youth would have blocked all roads leading to the durbar grounds with logs to prevent stakeholders from attending the programme.

Despite the intervention of the police, the chaotic stance of the youth—mostly galamsey boys— paralysed the programme. In the end the objective was not achieved. The forum would have provided a clear, transparent and an explicit platform for the parties to stay committed to the programme agreed upon by parties to stay together in the supreme interest of the communities.

It would have also reminded the parties on the need to rely the communication channels agreed on by them to resolve disputes and other issues on grave concern.

Today established that the galamsey boys are only serving as poster boys of some influential people of the area who are making mega bucks from the illegal activities of the galamsey activities. Such individuals own some of the illegal pits on the concession of Golden Star and so would go at every length to support the illegal mining miscreants.

Others use the concerns of the galamsey boys as campaign tool to get the votes of the encroachers and therefore find it extremely difficult dealing with the illegal galamsey operators and thus support them openly in order to fulfill a campaign promise. However, most right- thinking people, including some chiefs and opinion leaders, are vehemently against the activities of the galamseyers.

But clearly the fact is that Golden Star could not be that insensitive; not when it has entered into many mutual Memoranda of Understandings (MoUs) with the chiefs, opinion leaders and other leadership groups of the areas earmarked for their operations to live peacefully with everybody in the catchment communities.

Community Projects

But have the agitating youth been fair to Golden Star?

Today is asking this question because the paper discovered from its findings that the company is currently nursing acres of oil palm plantation at Mbease Nsuta which is providing jobs for thousands of people of the area.

It has also provided some 5,600 indigenous employees and their immediate families of the company with National Health Insurance as well as mine-sites clinics for the same number of workers and their families. The company has undertaken mosquito control programme, built community health centres in most of the communities, provided water security for over 30,000 households since it started operation some seven years ago.

The company has improved social conditions in most of the communities by undertaking infrastructural development including facelifts of major roads in Prestea-Bondaye and Mbease-Nsuta and the construction of drainage system at the various markets in the areas.

It has also upgraded the Out Patients Department (OPD) of the Prestea Government Hospital, the nurses’ quarters at Prestea, built an ultra-modern Police Barracks for Prestea, and replaced pit latrines with water closets in most of the communities, provided post and labour offices, bore-holes water treatment plants and many other infrastructural developments.

Agreement Mediation Committee

The paper also discovered that the aggrieved party—galamseyers—often refuses to use their own Agreement Mediation Committee to settle dispute or deal with their grievances. Under that agreement there is a moderator who must not be an indigene of the mine local community.

However, there is a co-moderator who must necessarily be an indigene of the mine local community, the Paramount Chief of Wassa Fiase Traditional Area, a representative of the Wassa Fiase Traditional area who is nominated by the Paramount Chief, a divisional Chief of Bogoso and one representative of Bogoso nominated by the divisional Chief; divisional Chief of Mbease Nsuata and one representative nominated from Bogoso and others from the other traditional authorities.

Local Employment Agreement between Golden Star (Bogoso/Prestea mine location community

Under the MoUs, Golden Star assured of their commitment to the sustainable economic development of the area under their control and the subsequent promotion of peace and harmony between the Company and the community where their concessions are located. The community in turn, is to show commitment towards discussions and consultations with the Company in areas of mutual interest and to promoting peace and harmony between the two parties

Again the community has expressed a wish to increase the employment of its citizens and has, therefore requested the Company to endeavour to employ many people from the community as possible with Golden Star being asked to maintain access to the resources (mineralised, human, and others) required, to allow a profitable operation on its operations to the benefit of the shareholders and stakeholders

Nature of Agreement

This document sets forth certain policies that the Company has adopted regarding employment to which, the parities expressed their full commitment. The parties further confirmed that the document had been prepared solely to record the mutual understanding reached after extended negotiations.

The community was also expected to encourage qualified skilled community citizens to seek employment with the company; counsel community citizens in the employment of the company to abide by the company’s rules and diligence to duty.

By definition a community citizen of the community or town are persons who hail from the community-town; a person whose father or mother hails from the community-town;  a person who lives in the community-town and has immovable property in the community-town or its environs; a person living in or outside the community-town who is married to somebody hailing from the community-town or a person who was born in the community-town and has lived in the community for at least 20 cumulative years.

As per the agreement, Today found out that majority of especially the younger workforce hail from the catchment communities.  In an interaction with one of them (name withheld for security reasons), he disclosed that his family house is on the brink of collapse because of activities of galamsey operators.

“Illegal galamsey operations have resulted in a deep pit beneath our building and if we don’t relocate we stand the risk of losing our lives because I won’t be surprised if the building should cave in any moment,” the young man lamented, adding that “despite persistent complaints with the security agencies nothing had been done.”

Procedure for unskilled labour recruitment

There is also a provision in the Community-Golden Star MoU that states that each community-town shall select and present to the company, a list of validated citizens in the number (proportions) indicated for each mining lease respectively, and that the company shall keep an inventory of validated citizens for each mining lease.

What is unskilled labour?

Unskilled labour: Little or no formal skills, training or education. Minimal or no reasoning required to perform the task; Minimal or no experience. Not a supervisory or technical role. Due to safety requirements all employees are required to verbally communicate in English and will require to read and understand simple instructions and safety signage. Jobs are unskilled when persons can usually learn to do them in 30 days or less (eg digging ditches, weeding, office cleaning, block-making)

Definition of skilled labour

It is defined as more complex than unskilled works; contains more variables, requires more judgment than unskilled occupations; and more than 30 days learning period (eg rough carpenter, plasterer, tire person, painter).

In this group, far more training are included in the highly skilled occupations that require far more training time and often a higher educational attainment, abstract thinking in specialised fields may also be required (e.g. laboratory technician, heavy equipment operator, welder, metal turner process plant operator)

Under the agreement, a joint committee shall select unskilled employees from the list, as they are required within each mining lease, in the order established by the procedure where the company is expected to notify the community of the job vacancies for unskilled labour and declare the community-town(s) from which people are to be selected as they relate to the mining lease.

We discovered from our investigative tour that almost all unskilled personnel working at all installations of the mining company are indigenes of either Prestea, Bogoso or and its environs. In fact the security detail manning the company’s security post is mainly indigenes from the four communities that the Golden Star operates.

Other unskilled jobs like cleaning, dusting manning of the internal security arrangements are all handled by indigenes of the area.

Education And Training

As part of the company’s core corporate social responsibility, it is obliged under the mutual agreement to support education and trainings as follows;

The community is encouraged through the support of Golden Star to send their children to primary school and encourage them to study, support their children through secondary and tertiary education and advise them to study disciplines that will make them employable for emerging sectors within Ghana.

The company is also expected to engage students on internship programmes and for National Service from the Community annually train them on the job and offer them employment subject to available vacancies and their performance. And this, our findings established is being carried through to the letter by Golden Star (Bogoso/Prestea).

Source: todaygh.com

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Reporting Oil and Gas project was launched on 4th June 2009atTakoradi, Western Region, Ghana by Penplusbytes (PPB – www.penplusbytes.org) with the vision of providing a one stop online information and knowledge about Ghana’s oil and gas sector
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