MINING companies have stated that they are not to blame for the poor conditions of mining communities, since the development of those communities is a function of the government.
In extricating the miners from blame, the Corporate Affairs Manager of Gold Fields Ghana Limited, Dr Toni Aublyn, argued that “we cannot be blamed in any way for the so-called under-development of the mining communities. That development must be orchestrated by the government and not mining companies.”
He defended the role of mining in national development and said in addition to honouring their tax obligations, some of the companies were engaged in various development programmes to better the lot of the communities in which they operate.
For instance, he said, Gold Fields had offered scholarships to more than 300,000 people as part of its social responsibilities to the communities.
He was speaking in an interview with the Daily Graphic after opening a national workshop on the establishment of a baseline data on social conflicts in mining communities, in Kumasi last Thursday.
The workshop was organised by the Minerals Commission and attended by chiefs, representatives from the district assemblies, mining companies and civil society organisations, among others.
The purpose of the workshop was to bring the various stakeholders in the mining sector together to deliberate on and analyse useful information leading to the establishment of a database aimed at reducing social conflicts in mining areas.
Establishing baseline data on social conflict in mining communities had become inevitable looking at the largely sour past and present relationship between mining companies and communities at the front-line of operations.
Under the project, the Government of Ghana has received assistance from the World Bank, the Royal Netherlands Government, the United Kingdom Department of International Development, Agence Francaise de Development and the European Commission to implement a programme with an overall objective of assisting the improvement of natural resource and environmental governance in Ghana.
Dr Aublyn said it was important for the people in the mining communities to question how the taxes meant for the development of their communities were being applied instead of turning the heat on the communities.
“The communities should start demanding from the authorities what they have done with monies accruing from the use of their lands by the mining companies,” he said.
He said the mining companies had nothing against NGOs in the mining sector per se, but what worried the companies was the way some of the NGOs misrepresented facts with regard to mining.
“They must present the facts because we are all looking for the development of the nation,” he said.
In his opening remarks at the workshop, the Project Manager of SRC Consulting, Mr Adu-Nyarko Andorful, noted that disputes in mining communities arose mainly when local people were offered insufficient compensation, excluded from decision-making, and when they found their livelihoods threatened.
It was in that vein that the development of the baseline data was very important as it had the ability to address the conflicts.