Mining companies found to have violated the rights of persons and communities in their areas of operation will be made to face the law, say David Annan, chairman of the committee investigating allegations of human rights abuses against mining companies.
Speaking at meetings with mining communities that had petitioned the Minister of Environment Science and Technology (MEST) at Tarkwa, Prestea, Bogoso, and Obuasi over human right abuses, Mr. Annan said it was necessary for companies to respect the laws and rights of people they deal with to enhance their development.
The committee was instituted by the MEST in the wake of petitions for human right violations in mining communities. It also followed a report issued in 2006 by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) which indicted mining companies for alleged human rights violations in mining communities.
The CHRAJ report found companies like Anglo-Gold Ashanti, Golden Star Resources, Goldfields, Central African Gold, Chirano Gold Mines, and Prestea Sankofa culpable for committing some form of human rights abuses against communities in which they operate.
Some of the violations contained in the report are pollution of water bodies, lack of community development, companies not employing indigenes, inadequate water supply to communities, environmental degradation and health and safety related issues.
Mr. Annan noted that the work of the committee was not a witch hunt but rather “we seek that the right things are done.”
He said that government would ensure that the royalties due district assemblies for developmental projects were used for the benefit of the people.
Mr. Annan, therefore, advised the people to use dialogue to resolve their differences with the mining companies instead of resorting to violence.
At a meeting with District Chief Executives, the Chairman of the committee further asked the districts to use the funds from royalties judiciously for the benefit of the communities.
He said to forestall the confrontation between the people and mining firms, the assemblies should hold regular forums with the stakeholders and also monitor the process of waste management and land reclamation to protect the environment.
Mr. Annan said, “The myriad of problems confronting the mining communities could have been avoided if laid-down rules and regulations had been adhered to.
The Tarkwa Municipal Chief Executive, Christine Kobinah, said the upward adjustment of royalties should be done through negotiations with the mining companies and stakeholders in order not for anyone to feel marginalised.
She said despite criticisms against the mining firms, they were undertaking some projects to assist the people.
“The mining companies have committed GH˘6 million for the year to undertake some developmental projects in the Tarkwa municipality,” Ms Kobinah said.
She urged government to release the community’s share of royalties on time for development.
During a visit to some of the communities including Sanso, Teberibe, Huni Valley, Himan, Dumasi, Dokyiwaa and Anyinam the committee members saw measures put in place by the companies to control spillage from their tailing dams, alternative livelihood programmes, scholarships schemes and other developmental projects for the communities.
The managements of Anglo-Gold Ashanti and Bogoso Goldfields assured the committee that they would continue to put in place measures to develop the communities in which they operate.
The other members of the committee on the tour were Dela Obeng Sakyi, Ransford Sekyi, Kwame Bosompim, and Adelaide Asante.