Stakeholders at a mining forum in Accra yesterday expressed concern about the manner in which the government awards oil and gas exploration projects to companies without involving the local communities whose natural resources are going to be exploited.
They argued that the situation most often ended up causing brawls between the local communities and the companies as they were not briefed with the details of the exploration, which often comes to destroy their farmlands and water bodies, as well as undermine their health.
The stakeholders included the Executive Director of Wacam, Mr Daniel Owusu- Koraanteng; Chief of Boabeng and member of the Advisory Board to Nkoranza Traditional Area, Nana Owusu Damoah Ameyaw III, a Senior Lecture at the University of Cape Coast, Dr Emmanuel Tenkorang; and a Senior Lecturer at University of Winneba, Dr Yaw Asamoah and Associate Executive Director of Wacam among others.
The forum, organized by Wacam, a community-based human rights and environmental mining advocacy non-governmental organisation, sought to inform and explore the level of awareness of communities and stakeholders in onshore oil and gas exploration and mining activities, respect for their right, and their participation in aspects of such activities.
Dr Tenkorang cited a research which found that the Ghana National Petroleum Commission (GNPC) hired Bureau and Geophysical Exploration (BGP), a Chinese company, for shore exploration without the engagement of the people of Nkoranza North, Nkoranza South and Atebubu Amantin in the Bono East Region.
He said even the district assemblies within these districts were neither consulted nor briefed about the project, which in the end destroyed people’s farm lands.
Dr Tenkorang said of the 170 respondents engaged during the research, 79 per cent said they became aware of the BGP exploration, although they were not duly engaged by GNPC before hiring the company.
He said 52 of the people attempted to but could not provide the name of the prospecting company while those whose farms or lands were destroyed said they were given little money as compensation.
Dr Asamoah added that the low level of participation of communities in the decisions on the exploration and the condition under which BGP explored the minerals in the district were against the principles regarding their social and cultural rights.
The Associate Director of Wacam, Mrs Hannah Owusu Koranteng, said there were situations where the state employed the use of force to compel communities to accept mining projects and ignored the concerns raised by the communities who suffered from all forms of environmental hazards during and after the exploration.
“We have made similar mistakes in Ghana with respect to gold mining in our quest to attract mining investors to exploit our natural wealth. It is not late to change the narrative by placing human beings, especially the citizens who will be affected by the wrong decisions we take, at the centre of our development options to reduce their suffering.
“We need to begin the implementation of the Free Prior and Informed Consent principles in the new areas of mining operations, especially communities that would be affected by on-shore oil production,” she said.
BY BERNARD BENGHAN