FULL STATEMENT OF THE WELCOME SPEECH BY HANNAH OWUSU- KORANTENG, ASSOCIATE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF WACAM DELIVERED AT THE 6TH NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF WACAM ORGANISED ON THE 8TH OF SEPTEMBER 2021 AT GNAT HOSTEL ABONKRO EJUSO
I wish to welcome you to the 6th Annual Conference of Wacam. Though the community mobilisation and organisation work started in the early 1990s, Wacam was officially launched on the 5th of September 1998 in Tarkwa.
In the period of Wacam’s mining advocacy work which span about three decades, Wacam has committed itself to community mobilisation and organisation of mining communities to hold corporate bodies accountable for environmental destruction, pollution of rivers, gross human rights violations and atrocities including shooting, killing and using guard dogs on suspects that were alleged to have trespassed on the properties of miming companies, discharge of faecal sewage into community rivers among others.
Mr Chairman, there is no doubt that the Minerals and Mining Act of Ghana Act 2006, Act 703 was developed with the objective of attracting foreign multinational mining companies to invest in the mining sector and control mineral extraction of our country.
Historically, the promotion to attract foreign direct investment to the mining sector started under the President Limann to address economic problems confronting the nation.
The aggressive attraction of foreign investment to the mining sector was given prominence after the overthrow of the Limann’s government in December 1982 by the Rawlings regime.
The International Financial Institutions supported the desire of the PNDC government to seek Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the mining sector. The influx of massive FDI to the mining sector marked the beginning of the third gold rush sometimes described as the third jungle boom of our country.
Mr Chairman, some characteristics of the third gold rush of Ghana include but not limited to the drastic change from underground mining operations to surface mining technology which created many land use conflicts especially conflict between surface mining and economic activities of host mining communities; conflict between surface mining and protection of river bodies and forest reserves among others.
Mr Chairman, whilst the multinational mining companies were on top of protecting their investment interest, our country lagged behind the industry in our technical capacity to regulate the many issues such as cyanide spillages, livelihood losses for communities, pollution of rivers, blasting effects among
Mr Chairman, by some design of nature, many of our forest reserves are sitting on gold and that made some forest reserves targets for destruction in search for gold. We placed more importance on gold extraction than protection of our remaining forest reserves which in many cases provided protection for the Waterheads of many rivers.
Unfortunately, whilst the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006, Act 703 clearly defined adequate protection for the mining companies, the ACT did not have explicit provision for No Go Zones to protect forest reserves, sacred sites such as royal cemeteries and sacred grooves among others.
A major weakness of the Minerals and Mining Act is the absence of strong provisions based on the principle of the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP} to hold mining companies to pay clean-up costs in the event of cyanide spills.
Mr Chairman, our country has experienced about 15 officially reported cyanide spillages but because of the weakness of the Minerals and Mining Act, the mining companies undertake Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects which are palliative compensation to appease the affected communities.
The cost of CSR generally helps the companies to reduce their tax obligations and the tax rebates could be significant in situations where we do not have third party verification of the cost components of corporate CSR.
In addition, the companies use CSR projects relating to environmental pollution such cyanide spillages as image enhancing PR tools.
Mr Chairman, the weakness of the minerals and mining laws have helped the mining companies to externalise the social and environmental cost of their operations to the mining communities and that had been the cause of the problems of such host communities.
The Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703) contain provisions which had promoted pollution of rivers, destruction of the environment and encouraged mining companies to repatriate very high levels of revenues to their home countries thus preventing our nation from reaping financial benefits from our natural capital for development.
The weakness of the Minerals and Mining Act, ACT 703 of 2006 reveals the strength of the mining lobby and the inability of the state to match the negotiating and lobbying strength of the multinational mining companies. In the bad exchange on mining conditions, the host communities become the victims of the third gold rush of Ghana.
The objective of mobilising and organising the host communities as the foundation of mining advocacy in Ghana was to empower the host communities through rights education to be the foundation of a knowledge-based mining advocacy to change the trajectory of mining in Ghana.
Wacam built its three-tier mining advocacy strategy on a strong foundation of an empowered community organisation, a second level of national advocacy and at the international level.
Being the premier community-based mining advocacy in Ghana,the success of Wacam’s mining advocacy demonstrates that empowerment of vulnerable communities through knowledge advocacy helps them to see the need to act collectively as people confronted by the same power of the mining lobby to build a countervailing power to change the power asymmetry. This has been the secret of the success story of Wacam’s mining advocacy.
Our theme for the 6th National Conference of Wacam which is
“Celebrating Wacam’s Mining Advocacy Achievements: The Role of Mining Communities”, gives meaning to how mining communities that had been empowered through the rights education programmes of Wacam had been able to protect their lands, rivers and livelihoods from being destroyed by the surface mining operations of multinational mining companies. Examples abound to demonstrate that when communities are empowered, they use principles such as the
Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) to protect to make choices that protect their livelihoods, right to clean environment and socio-cultural rights.
Wacam has been involved in policy advocacy in the mining sector to address the weaknesses in the mining law. The theme was selected to stress the importance of active citizens’ participation in policy advocacy in the mining sector to address the weaknesses of the Minerals and mining Act.
Mr Chairman, the mining communities have demonstrated patriotism and commitment to protect our forests, rivers and sacred sites as revered legacies for future generations. Wacam celebrates the efforts of the mining communities in their struggle to protect their livelihoods for future generations.
Mr Chairman, Wacam has been working on issues that relate to onshore oil exploration in communities in the Nkoranza and Busunya areas. A research of Wacam in 2021 sponsored by
Ford Foundation concluded that “ the low level of participation of the communities on the decisions of the exploration and the conditions under which it is undertaken in the districts is directly against the principle of self-determination as espoused in the first article of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and that by virtue of the right to self-determination , people should freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development .”
Mr Chairman, the aforementioned research states clearly that, “the practice of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) by the exploration company generally involved free, prior information dissemination without consent of the people directly affected sought.”
Mr Chairman, it is sad that the state and its agencies are not ensuring the respect for all protocols of engagement with the affected communities to seek their consent to undertake onshore oil exploration in the Nkoranza and Busunya communities which serve as an important food basket for our country.
When corporate bodies rely on their corporate strength to ignore affected communities to undertake projects with far reaching negative consequences on the people who live in the area, the result is protracted conflicts.
Mr Chairman, there is enough evidence to support the fact that the exploration of onshore oil without the social license from the affected communities generates social conflicts which sometimes turn violent.
We should avoid the repetition of such mistakes. The simple truth and lesson is that, the fact that the oil deposits exist does not mean that we should exploit it to the detriment of the host communities, the environment and our country.
Mr Chairman, Wacam has made tremendous achievements in holding mining companies accountable to advance the objective of responsible mining.
We have gained enormous support of the mining communities, the media, CSOs, funding partners, students, the intelligentsia and a cross section of the public.
We could not have achieved the significant milestones in our advocacy work without strong public support for our noble objectives of protecting our natural wealth for current and future generations.
We congratulate everyone who had supported Wacam in the difficult mining advocacy for almost three decades. We would continue to rely on your support even as we scale up our mining advocacy work in very difficult areas such as communities that may be affected by the onshore oil exploration.
As we celebrate our 23rd anniversary, we want to salute all our brave activists and pay tribute to our departed activists such as Emelia Amoateng, Ibrahim Issahaku, Mr Osei Nimako, Mr Dei Nkrumah and others.
May the coming years bring more success to our cherished organisation. Afehyiapa.
You are all welcome.