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03-Oct-2009  
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Youth for Action Ghana (YAG), a pressure group, has called for a national debate on the decision to allow Newmont Ghana to destroy the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve to bring out its costs and benefits.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Government at its nadir gave a licence to Newmont Ghana to dig a trench, which would be 2.5 kilometres long; 0.9 kilometres wide and 0.5 kilometres deep to destroy the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve.

Ms Esther Obeng-Dapaah, Former Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines, confirmed that she approved the issue of the licence during a morning show programme on a private radio station in Accra. The licence was subsequently issued in February 2009 according to Newmont.

A release Mr James Kwabena Bomfeh, Executive Director of YAG, signed at the weekend said the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve was a national heritage and the decision to destroy it should not be left to a few chiefs in the Akyem Kotoku area of the Eastern Region, who are eager “to sell the future of Ghana and the heritage of future generations for a mere pittance”.

The release was in response to a GNA report that some chiefs in Akyem Kotoku presented a petition to Mr Collins Dauda, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources and his team of experts to allow Newmont to mine in the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve when the Minister paid a visit to the area to get acquainted with the issues on the ground.

YAG noted that the Newmont Akyem Project has become the most controversial mining project in the country, having come under serious criticism from nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), Religious Leaders and Farmers.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has also sent a query to the Government of Ghana regarding the potential impacts of the Newmont Akyem Project on the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve and the violation of the Right to Food of the affected people.

The release said allegations made in the media that Newmont had bribed some Chiefs in the Akyem Kotoku area had added to the controversies.

YAG said if the Government should buy into the argument of the Akyem Kotoku Chiefs that Galamsey operators would invade the Ajenua-Bepo Forest Reserve once it has been established that there was gold deposits there, would tantamount to an admission that it did not have the technical know how and the political will to protect the country’s forest reserves.

YAG criticised recent media reports that the Parliamentary Sub- Committee on Poverty Reduction had commended some mining companies including Newmont Ahafo Mine and Goldfields Ghana Limited because they had reduced poverty in their areas of operation.

It said: “The position of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Poverty Reduction that surface mining has reduced poverty in mining communities is far from the truth. Surface mining, which deprives farming communities of land; pollute streams, results in the payment of very small compensation for the destruction of important crops such as cocoa and leads to human rights abuses cannot reduce poverty in areas where the people are predominantly farmers.

“There are enough research findings by credible organisations like ISSER of University of Ghana to prove that surface mining has worsened poverty in mining communities. A research carried out by the Ghana Chamber of Mines, an association of the mining companies, and published in many newspapers stated that about 80% of the people in mining communities expressed dissatisfaction about the compensation they received,” YAG said.

 
 
Source: GNA
 
 

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