…Until cost benefit analysis is undertaken
…Wacam demands
Source : http://www.ghanaweb.com/public_agenda/article.php?ID=15770

Daniel-OECDWATCH -2006 Ghana Inter regional Seminar

Following recent community agitations over negative impacts of mining and damning revelations of the prevalence of cancer and other deadly diseases in mining communities, government has been urged to halt the issuance of all mining leases until a cost-benefit analysis of mining is undertaken.
« It is time for government to place a moratorium on the granting of mining leases to companies so that we undertake cost-benefit analysis to factor in environmental,
social, economic and health costs of mining, » Daniel Owusu Koranteng, Executive Director of Wacam, demanded last Tuesday.
He also says it has become imperative to revise the nation’s legislation on mining to include a provision on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) so as to empower host communities to accept or reject mining projects based on processes that are free from manipulation, harassment and the provision of adequate information.
« The Free Prior and Informed Consent of the host mining communities should be sought prior to the granting of concessions, » he suggests, and then reminds government that Ghana has ratified and gazetted the ECOWAS Directive on Mining which includes the FPIC.
Mr Owusu-Koranteng, whose organization empowers host communities to campaign against ills associated with mining, said these in Accra where he chaired the launch of a report of a study on « Human Health Assessment and Epidemiological Studies from Exposure to Toxic Chemicals in Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipality, Prestea Huni Valley District and Cape Coast Metropolis. »
The study, commissioned by the Cape Coast based Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis (CEIA), was undertaken by Samuel Obiri, Frederick Ato Armah, Emmanuel Asante and Florence E. Nyieku. It involved the examination of blood samples of respondents, water and food sources as well as the analysis of hospital records of respondents from the three districts.
The researchers examined the presence of toxic substances like Arsenic, Cadnium, Mercury, Zinc, Manganese, Lead, Cobolt and Platinum and analysed their implications on the health of residents of the three districts. The concentration levels of these metals were measured against standardized levels approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Ghana Environmental Protection Agency (GEPA), and United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).
Key findings were that many of these substances had found their way into the bodies of many of the 5000 respondents in the study either through oral or dermal means, causing several aliments including cancers of the skin, liver, kidney and lung.
In particular, the report reveals that the mean concentration of heavy metals in the blood samples from resident children in Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipal Assembly and Prestea Huni District have arsenic levels in their serum that exceed the WHO permissible level by 5,800%; Mercury levels in serum of 1,000% higher than WHO permissible levels; cadmium levels in serum of 163,000% higher than WHO permissible levels; lead levels in serum of 10,000% higher than WHO permissible level; copper levels in serum of 866.3% higher than WHO permissible level; Manganese levels in serum of 45,150% higher than WHO permissible level and zinc level in serum of 2.263% higher than WHO permissible levels.
In addition, the report says up to eight adults out of every 100 inhabitants in the Prestea Huni Valley District (PHVD) and the Tarkwa Nsuaem Municipality are potential cancer patients while in some cases nine out of every 100 children have traces of cancer in their blood.
In Mr Owusu-Koranteng’s view, these revelations are « frightening » and tell « yet another sad story of an industry that is acknowledged to be providing the country with minimal benefits but leaves us with serious negative health, social and environmental legacies which would last many generations. »
He recalled how he felt when he first knew of the contents of the report. « Ever since I got exposed to the details of the report…my greatest worry had been why innocent citizens of our country especially children should suffer such pain for generations so that foreign multinational companies would make enough profit to send to their home countries and live our children and people with cancers. »
He then asks: « How much money can our country make to justify the imposition of such levels of pain on the poor people who happen to have the unfortunate destiny of having to live in areas that are endowed with gold? »
Total annual mineral exports rose from US$115.3 million in 1984 to US$995.2 million in 2005, according to statistics. In more recent years the figures have surged beyond the one billion mark with just about five percent of mineral revenues being retained in the country. The sectors contribution to Gross Domestic Product has also stagnated in the region of five percent.
At the same time, critics of the sector say the net benefits of mining is negative, they point to several studies to back their argument.
For instance, investigations by Wacam in 2006 to assess how mining communities perceived their rivers based on changes in colour of rivers, taste, smell, etc., showed that mining communities in Obuasi and Tarkwa perceived about 400 rivers as polluted.
Later, Wacam with support from Oxfam America commissioned the CEIA to undertake water quality analysis of some of the rivers to ascertain the validity of the community claims. « We had a shocking revelation that 250 rivers in Tarkwa area and Obuasi area were polluted with heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, cadmium, cobalt, copper, lead, platinum, zinc and manganese, » says Mr Owusu-Koranteng.
The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has also in a 2008 report titled « The State of Human Rights in Mining Communities in Ghana » recorded that « Tests of water sampled from water sources in 22 out of 28 mining communities show that, at least two water quality parameters, with health implications, were present and in concentrations significantly higher than the World Health Organisation (WHO) maximum allowable limits for drinking water. »
For the Wacam boss, the culprits are very obvious. « The mining companies and artisanal miners have contributed to the pollution of rivers in the area. »
Joining the call for changes, lead researcher in the CEIA study, Samuel Obiri, says there is need for mining companies to be compelled to undertake health impact analysis as part of their environmental impact analysis and this should be done regularly.
And « as a matter of urgency Parliament must take a second look » at sections 17, 20 and 75 (3) of the Minerals and Mining Law of Ghana, Act 703, 2006. Section 17 allows mining companies to impound and divert water without recourse to consent or views from communities while section 20 allows companies to keep information regarding their analysis of water to themselves.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology has promised to study the CEIA report and take appropriate responsive measures.

Author: Frederick Asiamah