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A legal practitioner with consortium civil society organizations working in mining communities, Mr Augustine Niber has described the current mining and mineral law as very weak saying it does not help affected communities where mining activities are concentrated.

Presenting an overview of the Minerals and Mining Act( 703) 2003 at a day's media engagement in Tamale, Mr Augustine Niber said the new mining laws rather have more gaps than the old one, PNDC law 153 which he said lowered standards in controlling mining activities in Ghana.

He said one of the issues Ghana must deal with is the way and manner low mining concessions are granted in the country, stressing that currently the 1992 constitution of Ghana and the Mineral and Mining Act 2006 (Act 703) vest all natural resources in the President to hold in trust for the people of Ghana.

At the moment there are not disclosures of any contract agreement in mining and minerals activities in Ghana,  the Centre For Public Interest Law [CEPIL] said.

All documents according to the lawyer are treated as confidential documents making it very difficult for environmentalist and rights advocates to have access to them.

Ghana, Mr Niber said, needs a new law mandating listed companies engaged in the sector to make documents public or accessible to the media and other interest groups.

Mr. Niber said the fact that the lands on which these minerals are found belong to individuals, families, communities and stools including skins, But as it is in the law, the mining concessions for both large and small scale mining are granted without the consent and participation of the owners of the land.

On the rights of communities, Mr Niber said it is the amount of compassion between the owner and the company and not the land in the valuation unit of the lands commission.

The powers invested in the lands minister by law, he added, makes it difficult for land owners to always be at the losing end, Mr Niber explained. Under the PNDC law there was not avenues for compensations in the past.

"Compensation was paid for commercial trees and without commercial trees on your land, you can't get it," the CEPIL boss said.

Dissatisfied communities on compensation, he advised, can go to any high court in the area for the court to exercise its supervisory role on the matter.

The current mining and minerals law he said is very weak and needs to be reviewed to enable affected communities fight for their rights.

"If rearing of livestock, farming or erecting buildings are problematic with the company, you will not be allowed." This, he said disadvantage mining communities.

The people of Bepotintin, near Ashanti Bekwiare, must have been relieved, following the arrest of the Chinese-born ‘galamsey’ or illegal mining operator,

Aisha Huang, whose area of operation included their farmlands. They must be relieved because the continuous vandalising of their cocoa farms has ceased. But their relief must be short lived, because their once lucrative cocoa farms are no more and, in its place, are lost livelihoods, degraded farm lands and destroyed water bodies.

In the words of Civic Response’s Albert Katako, who visited the area recently, “the worst is yet to come, because the cumulative impacts of hazardous chemicals used in mining, will begin to manifest later in the health of the people, in about five years from now”.

It is for this reason, among others, that participants at a debate event a fortnight ago in Accra on irresponsible mining, called for a one year moratorium on illegal mining, within the short-term. This is to allow for space for broadened discussions on the subject and to define long-term mutually-beneficial and appropriate solutions.

Read more: Forum held on irresponsible mining in Ghana

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