Promoting Sustainable Relationship between Mining Communities and Mining Companies; the role of Environmental Impact Assessment (Case study at Prestea and Ahafo Kenyase

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Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the official appraisal of the likely effects of a proposed project on the environment and measures to be adopted to protect the environment. One of the primary objectives of EIA is to provide an opportunity for the participation of the various interest groups, particularly the affected communities, in the assessment and review of proposed developments so that their concerns and suggestions are taken into consideration at the final decision-making stage (see Appendices 2 and 3). It is generally hoped that the inclusion of these communities in the various decisions leading to the approval of the project will lead to social acceptability, or otherwise of the project and promote sustainable relationship between the affected communities and the proponent. Nonetheless, recent developments and reports from the Ghanaian media disclose that some conflicts continue to emerge between some mining communities and mining companies. The Prestea community was chosen as a study area following a Daily Graphic Report on October 7th, 2005 (Appendix 1) that there was serious conflict between the community and Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL). The Ahafo-Kenyase community, which was experiencing actual mining operations in less than a year as at the time of the study, was also chosen to assess how the concerns of the local communities were taken into consideration during the EIA process and also to determine whether or not there is the existence of a conflict between the community and the mining company operating in the area, and the immediate causes, if any. The study was undertaken with the purpose of identifying EIA’s role in promoting that sustainable and cordial relationship between the two parties. The principal aim was to examine the conflicts, where they exist, in terms of the extent to which EIA influenced the final decisions prior to the onset of the two projects. The main objectives were: 1. To investigate if any conflicts have occurred between any of the affected communities and the mining company operating in that community, and the immediate causes. 2. To evaluate the extent to which EIA influenced the implementation of the two projects and explore the level of public participation in the EIA process. 3. To assess the nature and firmness of ETA compliance monitoring programmes together with the transparency of the process through public access to information; and 4. To identify the extent to which the EIA procedures provide a means by which an affected community can appeal against non-compliance with EIA decisions. The study was conducted by reviewing the existing ETA Procedures and ETA Regulations in Ghana as well as reviewing the Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) of the two companies: Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) and BGL; operating in Kenyase and Prestea respectively. Questionnaires were administered to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Prestea community. Direct interviews in the form of community meetings were conducted at the Kenyase communities. The results revealed that there were high levels of Consultation and Public Participation (CPP) at the initial and subsequent stages in the EIA processes of both projects. However, the EIA was not able to prevent conflict in Prestea because the community’s disagreement of opening the surface mining due to its perceived negative impacts was ignored at the final decision-making stage of the ETA process. Other reasons given by the respondents as the immediate causes of the conflict at Prestea included: • The refusal of BGL to employ people from the local community, • The negative impacts that the community experience from the mining activity; and • The demand by the people for the resettlement of the entire Prestea community. EIA was, however, able to prevent conflict in the Kenyase community following several consultative meetings between NGGL and the community who welcomed the commencement of the mining project. The study revealed that though the EIA system in Ghana provides comprehensive ETA procedures and guidelines that support public participation in projects necessitating ETA study, ETA in Ghana has not been able to achieve much in the area. of conflict avoidance owing to certain omissions in the ETA procedures which include the following: • The lack of public participation at the final decision-making stage prior to project approval, • The lack of clear provision for ETA compliance or supervisory monitoring by the EPA in the ETA system in Ghana, • There is also, no provision of a formal channel for the public to appeal against noncompliance with ETA decisions against proponents, and • There is no involvement of the judicial agencies in resolving issues concerning challenging ETA decisions or actions of the EPA. It is hoped that the above omissions will be introduced into the ETA system in Ghana through adequate ETA regulations to help prevent the occurrence of these conflicts in the future
A thesis submitted to the Department mf Materials Engineering, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Master of Science in Environmental Resources Management